Peace Breaks Out – Angela Thirkell

I usually try to review books in this blog that are easy to get hold of, but I think I will do this one as although copies are expensive, it is being brought out on kindle on the 3rd November so will be available. I am surprised that Virago bring out some of Thirkell’s books on kindle only; those who have discovered her usually like physical copies of her books to add to their collection. I have two physical copies, but would still welcome a paperback. The three books that are coming out on the 3rd are on my birthday list, so watch this space…

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This is one of Thirkell’s  wartime novels in a way, though based more on the events of V.E. Day and “Vee – Jay” Day. It does reflect why some do not get on with her books, as the war is a background issue and those who lose loved ones rare in her books. There is a character in one book whose husband is posted as missing, and it is a moving picture of a woman whose life is in some senses on hold until she gets confirmation of her husband’s fate.  One of the characters who is not always the most popular (Mr Adams) tries so hard to find news. Which novel is it? I feel it might be one that is due to come out in the near future…

But I digress. This novel is surprisingly bitter about Peace being declared, seeing the announcement as an inconvenience rather  than marking the end of a terrifying time. Maybe it’s because this book is set in the countryside where air raids are rare (see Northbridge Rectory   for  home front descriptions), or maybe the day to day concerns of bread supply are the realistic way most people actually made it through. There are some disturbing references to refugees from European countries, but maybe I’m a little sensitive to such things at this time. Having just finished a Mitford novel ( I read them over breakfast – don’t judge) I found myself gritting my teeth far more over her subject matter. Is it a matter of hindsight or a genuine problem with writing of the past?

This novel is dominated by romance. David is at his outrageous flirting again, which almost proved disastrous in Wild Strawberries  , and it is more than time that someone stronger takes him on, which looks increasingly possible. In the meantime both Anne (Miss Buntings second heroine) and Martin are both made miserable by his antics. This book features many reoccurring characters, so may not be the best place to start with Thirkell (High Rising or Wild Strawberries  being better) . This novel will not disappoint Thirkell fans, if only because it features Lady Emily and her “portable property” barriers, her formidable if selective memory, and her appreciation of “that lovely creature”, Robin’s mother. This book ends so well for those with a sentimental nature, but could put others off who like their fiction a little more realistic and sensible….

In other news, northernvicar and I made our annual pilgrimage to Harrogate for the History festival. We only went to events on the Friday, but saw some interesting new novelists speak about their debut novels, and Wolf Winter  win the prize. I also saw Philippa Gregory’s presentation on her work, and the queues for book signing after she won the Outstanding Contribution Award. I have reviewed a few of her books, including her latest here More to come about this festival I’m sure.

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2 thoughts on “Peace Breaks Out – Angela Thirkell

  1. The book you’re thinking of is Miss Bunting, which I think gives a very clever description of a woman who wonders whether her life will ever stop being on hold, her husband being posted as missing in action. It’s harder to portray dreary acceptance of a situation than to emotionalise about it. You could say the British spent most of the war doing their stiff upper lip bit. And of course Thirkell was writing while WWII was going on, so she didn’t know who would win! Despite the dreadful loss of life there are quite a number of families whose men come back from a war and by a curious coincidence a founder member of the Angela Thirkell Society, Felicite Nesham, published a book of letters written by her father and his siblings during WW1 – of five serving sons, all survived. The grouchiness about victory was authentic as well. People were worn down by strain, rationing and other hardships, so asking them to celebrate when they didn’t know quite what would happen next was more than some could manage. And rationing got, if anything, worse immediately after peace was declared …

    Yes – Marling Hall, The Headmistress and Miss Bunting are all due out in Virago in November – hurray!

    1. I knew I had re read that book recently! I think that Northbridge Rectory is great on the displaced service people and civilians who end up at the Vicarage…and AT gives a probably very faithful picture of the sheer day to day difficulties of rationing etc. roll on the new paperbacks for more Thirkell goodies

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