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review 2016-01-07 15:35
Witty novel on 1930's Britain
The Demon in the House - Angela Thirkell

The Demon in the House is the third book of Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels, and I wasn’t sure how I would feel about a story centered on a force of nature like the cheerfully self-involved, hyper-talkative, 12 or 13 year-old Tony Morland--the “demon” of the title--but for the most part I loved it. Many of the characters from High Risings, the first of Thirkell’s Barsetshire books, are back and it was a pleasure to catch up with old friends.


Several sections of the story evoke with breath-taking clarity the mostly unruly but sometimes sublime passions of childhood--especially chapter 5, which is titled Paradise Pool because Tony discovers a particularly lovely view of the lake where a group of grown-ups and children have gathered to picnic and swim. The youngsters are full of high spirits, playing, squabbling loudly, and running off with each other’s toys, but then Tony and his mostly silent friend Donk climb down to muck around in a stream that’s below the level of the main body of water, and from that lower angle the lake looms like a magic pool suspended in midair, a vision that awes and moves them both and temporarily silences the almost pathologically loquacious Tony--it’s a lovely piece of writing.


Thirkell apparently didn’t think much of her own books. Like Tony’s mother she wrote because she needed to earn a living and didn’t expect or want her well educated friends to read her novels, but but for “fluff” her stories are witty and socially aware. Because they were written during the time when they're set, in this case the 1930’s, the stories also offer interesting and often unexpected (to me) insights about the daily life and attitudes of the era, including a few eyebrow-raising off-hand comments by characters that are offensive today.

Virago is re-releasing many of Thirkell’s novels, but so far not not this one, which means that most or all of the available copies are the Moyer Bell editions which do have some editing errors.

Source: jaylia3.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/witty-novel-on-1930s-britain
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review 2014-04-21 00:07
An achingly poignant conundrum
The Warden - Anthony Trollope

With a small town Victorian setting, the fictional Barsetshire, and an appealing somewhat Austen-like cast of characters, Trollope's novel The Warden illustrates just how complicated reforming a centuries old church policy can be, even when everyone involved has valid concerns and mostly the best of intentions. When John Hiram died in long ago 1434 his will left money and property for the support of twelve impoverished older men retired from the trade of wool-carding, the men being replaced by others as they passed on to the better world, all of which was to be overseen by a warden compensated for his work. The charity has prospered in the 400 or so years since it was established and has been able to continue its mission unabated.


Obviously by Victorian times though things had changed--there were no longer wool carders in Barsetshire for instance--so terms have had to be adjusted, but maybe they have strayed too far from the original intent? Currently the twelve elderly recipients are housed in comfortable lodgings, receiving all they need to live and allocated a small amount of money for their own use. Rev. Harding, the just and compassionate warden, also gives the twelve an extra stipend from his own pocket, and the men enjoy both his company and the beautiful music he plays in the evenings.


But then John Bold, a reform minded young man incidentally in love with the warden’s daughter, takes it into his head that the warden’s yearly salary is too much and that more of the charity's money should be going directly to the twelve men. Which sets up an achingly poignant conundrum. Should such a caring warden’s income be reduced?  Everyone has a strong opinion about what is right, including the men themselves, and when the matter is taken up by the press the poor warden is vilified, horrifying him.

There is almost an O. Henry quality to this story, with some surprise twists at the end and most characters having to live with the unexpected consequences of actions they had thought so prudent at the time. Trollope uses The Warden to make lots of observations about human nature and the workings of Victorian society, which are wittily written and for the most part interesting, but they do slow the story down. I had heard The Warden is the weakest of Trollope’s Barsetshire novels, which makes me very eager to read the rest because I loved this one.

Source: jaylia3.booklikes.com/post/859704/an-achingly-poignant-conundrum
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review 2013-01-18 00:00
Doctor Thorne (Barsetshire Novels)
Doctor Thorne - Anthony Trollope Anthony Trollope's third installment in the Barchester Chronicles. A book of birth, wealth, titles, and class distinctions. Trollope skewers all three while making Dr. Thorne and his bastard strong willed niece Mary, and Mrs Dunstable, the only ones to see the absurdity of these Victorian British mores and attempt to rise above them. Even they ultimately succumb to the pressures of peer and society and fall in line.All the difficulties are ultimately resolved by an unlikely chain of events and fortuitous deaths typical of this sort of thing and the happy ending is telescoped way before it ever occurs. This leaves the message somewhat diluted.As always Trollope's prose is marvelous and his sense of humor exquisite making this a fairly light hearted read that belies his later works. The characters are well drawn and tend to be less two-dimensional than Dickens while the plots are nowhere near as lively.I like this book a lot, maybe better, than I did the previous two volumes Barchester Towers and The Warren and look forward to the next. I'm sure this will seem dull to those that do not favor long 19th century novels, but I always loved this sort of thing.
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