Normally I review books that are widely and easily available, but sadly this one is not likely to turn up without a bit of searching. There are definitely second hand copies available, including the U.S. Moyer Bell paperback. As I have said in a previous post, the wonderful Virago Modern Classic series have produced about six volumes in this series so far, and are due to produce more during 2016. This does mean that copies are available in secondhand and charity shops, as well as many ‘ordinary bookshops.
(Two new editions available just about everywhere)
The book that I have just finished in the Barsetshire series is Jutland Cottage (1953), which I tracked down in a first editon in a charity shop. ( I think I have another copy from a Cheshire Bookbarn – for slightly more…)
This book is not the strongest in the series, but I found it more readable than some. Set in 1953, when it was written, it has not the sense of threat those books written when Britain was at war in the 1940s, but it opens with news of the death of the much loved King George IV. We therefore see various individuals wondering about suitable dress for the announcement, something that immediately dates the novel. On a happier note, this novel includes several favourite characters, including the ex sailor, now ordained, Canon Fewling. My own favourite in this novel is the “lovely Rose Fairweather”, beautiful but widely seen as a little lacking in common sense, who in previous novels has got accidentally engaged many times. In this book she is happily married, still repairing her makeup, driving too fast, and uttering her favourite phrases such as “Shattering” and ” foully dispiriting”. She proves very organised on this occasion, setting up an unofficial support group for the worthy but poor Phelps family. In particular, the hardworking daughter, Margot is taken out and transformed as she attracts more than one suitor. Miss Hampton, author of passionate books and her Friend, Miss Bent, dispense drinks and words of wisdom about St.Paul among other topics. Cars are driven fast and well, dress material eagerly sought and received. Rose utters observations about astronomy never expressed in textbooks.
I can imagine that these are not the books for everyone. They depend on in jokes, a suspension of disbelief, a memory of characters from other books, but not necessarily to be read in order. I enjoyed this particular book as it includes some memorable characters and an interesting story line. It is full of minor events and rural developments, and for those who enjoy fairly gentle English country stories it is very funny and enjoyable. As other books in the series are much easier to obtain, it may be as well to start with those if you are new to Angela T’s novels, but this is an enjoyable installment.