“Would people be in the green drawing-room where they had assembled last night, or in the yellow drawing-room where they had played that dreadful game after dinner, or in the library, or in one of the other rooms that she hadn’t yet seen? Just then she saw Miss Merriman coming out of a door at the far end, so she went quickly back to the foot of the stairs and began walking across the hall again, so that Miss Merriman should think she had only just come down.
‘Good morning. You look rather lost,’ said Miss Merriman, thus shattering her hopes that she would be taken for a hard-boiled, self-possessed society girl. ‘You’ll find it warm in the yellow drawing-room.’
She led the way briskly to the other side of the hall, opened the door, almost pushed Alice in, and went off on one of her many household errands.”
Who will save Alice Barton from her sea of timidity? Enter Phoebe Rivers, who immediately (and kindly) befriends her, rescues her from dealing with unknown servants, and introduces her to all of the quirks and vagaries of a society weekend.
Thirkell’s characterization if both humorous and creative!
“It was Mr. Johns’s practice, whenever he went away to a strange house, to have a telegram sent to him every day from his office, containing the words ‘Return if possible urgent’. This telegram he tore up if he was enjoying himself, but if he was bored he was able to exhibit it mournfully to his host and ask if he could be sent to the station in time for the best afternoon train.”
I found myself enjoying several of the characters, and was suitably dismayed when I came across Mrs. Rivers’ pretensions and her son Julian’s rude and selfish behavior. My heart was drawn away by Roddy, who has known Alice since childhood and makes for an estimable bodyguard, and I admired Sally (Roddy’s sister)’s confidence and self-assurance. I even found myself pleasantly surprised that by the end of the book, I had changed my initial opinion of some of the characters, and it was fun watching Alice grow a backbone.
Pomfret Towers is light, entertaining, and a fast read. I have often noticed reviews of Thirkell that are always positive, and this was my introduction to her writing, but it won’t be my last!