Richard Tebbin is home from Oxford. Seemingly spoiled and shrugging off his parents’ delight at seeing him once again, he does seem to me to be too focused on himself and his own concerns. Can one summer change him?
“Richard strode off up the hill alone, angry and mortified because the irritation which his parents always produced in him had for the thousandth time got the upper hand. He had promised himself again and again this term that next time he would make allowances, treat them with tolerant kindness, and now, before he had even shaken hands with his father, or let himself be kissed by his mother, everything had gone wrong. It was quite impossible to apologize to one’s parents. They might be solemn about it and anyway it was not one’s own fault.”
Perhaps an infatuation with a mother of nine children is just the ticket for Richard’s growth and maturity.
The Deans are visiting their relatives in the small town of Worsted. Rachel Dean, the matriarch, has a heart murmur and several accomplished children. Her biggest dilemma seems to be how to handle the young Richard’s growing enthusiasm for her company. And there are other characters with equally difficult problems to solve.
Helen Dean is struggling with the knowledge that her brother Laurence’s attention is now taken up by Margaret (Richard’s sister). Can Helen survive the competition and resulting and find her own place in the world? Meanwhile their old family friend, Charles Fanshawe, realizes he is too old for Helen.
A loose bull on the rampage will bring Richard to sudden decision and admiration, just in time to recoup his sense of worth suffering from the results of poor examination grades.
Angela Thirkell reminds me of a female Wodehouse. Her wry humor may not be ‘politically correct’ in today’s world, but set during England’s pre-war and WW2 years, they may have been just the ticket to distract England from her burdens.
“Mr. Moxon had been for two months in the Argentine. He had studied the whole question (‘What question?’ asked Laurence, unheard), and had come to the conclusion that fellowship would solve everything.
“But you can’t have fellowship with natives,’ said Susan. ‘One has to shoot them if they are too troublesome. One tired to murder Daddy in his tent so he shot him. It went against the grain, but he had to.”
Mr. Moxon, who had never before sat at a murderer’s table, said he was grieved to hear it but, things were better now, implying to the fury of the young Deans, that their father’s departure had considerably raised the moral tone of the place.”
Thirkell’s light, frothy novels often have all their loose, tangled ends satisfyingly and with subtle humor, tied up by the final chapters. Some of the references to the Greek play were sadly lost on me (my education has been sorely neglected I fear). Although I didn’t enjoy this one as much, (“Pomfret Towers” and “The Brandons” seemed to strike me better), I look forward to reading more Angela Thirkell novels in future.