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Book Review : High Rising by Angela Thirkell

13th June, 2016

Book Review: High Rising by Angela Thirkell

High Rising is the story of Laura Morland, a writer, and the affairs of the neighborhood around her. A story with a non elaborate plot about things going wrong, some misunderstandings and confusions and how everything falls in place in the end.


Angela Thirkell is a new author for me. She gained a place on my bookshelf when Virago reprinted her writings in absolutely stunning covers recently. What drew me to the book more than the name of the author is the fact that it is set in Barsetshire, the fictional county created by Trollope in his Barchester series (Book 1 being The Warden) which I have been reading since the beginning of this year. It is absolutely wonderful to dive into another series set in the same fictional region. It almost feels as if it is a real place existing in the world.

Book Reviw : High Rising by Angela Thirkell

High Rising takes place between Christmas and Easter in High and Low Rising. It centres around the novelist Laura Morland, a widow who has turned to writing to support her four sons. Laura’s writing falls into the category of ‘good bad books’ and I loved the way Thirkell presents her whole career in funny snippets. I think this must be the first book I have read about a ‘chicklit writer’ if we go by the definitions in contemporary literature. Especially wonderful are the well defined side characters; from the annoying Tony Morland to housekeeper, Stoker, and her gossips among the servants of the neighbourhood.

Laura’s friends are a perfect group who gossip and try to organise one another’s lives.  Their main concern is George Knox, a widower and author who Laura has been friends with for many years. His new secretary Miss Grey seems to nurturing matrimony plans with her employer. Will George be rescued from the ambitious Miss Grey? Will his daughter, Sybil find love in the young publisher Aldrin? Will she be as good a writer as George? Witty and humorous, High Rising takes us through love vs business and friendship vs bitter truths in this story.

Book Review : High Rising by Angela Thirkell

I was delighted to read this because of the humour instilled in the book. It was charming to read how all the folks were united in driving the Incubus (Miss. Grey’s nickname) out of High Rising. Another fact that really struck me is how it is emphasized that we don’t need to be winners all the time to be happy. Success and happiness are two different things and I loved how Thirkell puts the idea in a subtle manner in her novel. The plot is simple, language calm and the story very agreeable.

Pick this one if you love,

Jerome K Jerome, Barbara Pym, Gibbons and Wodehouse. This is a light fun read. It would be perfect for the summer vacation. After reading the book I am convinced why Thirkell was a prominent figure in the literary world in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.  I cannot promise that I would finish the whole series. But I might definitely pick a few more of them along the way.

Title : High Rising
Author : Angela Thirkell
Publisher : Virago Modern Classics
Published : 2012 (Originally in 1933)
Language : English
Pages : 283
Rating : 3.5/5

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High Rising

About the Author

Angela Thirkell was an Autralian and English novelist. Thirkell began writing early in her life in Australia, chiefly through the need for money. Later she worked at an Australian radio company. This career continued with journalism, stories for children, and then novels. Her success as a novelist began with her second novel, High Rising (1933). She set most of her novels in Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire, his fictional English county developed in the six novels known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire

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This Post Has 23 Comments
  1. That really is a gorgeous cover!
    I love when writers center their books around protagonists who are also writers! Stephen King is probably the one who does it most, but I never get tired of it. It’s always fascinating for me to get glimpses into a writer’s life through fiction.

    1. That is true. And I was really happy to read about a normal writer – not the highly literary type, or highly successful type. Just another human being who sees writing as a career to earn her livelihood.

  2. OH I love the cover of this book, and your pictures make it even more gorgeous <3 I feel like this is a book I could enjoy on a summer day, plus, I love the fact that the main protagonist is a writer, that's just so great, and I don't read nearly enough books where that happens. Great review! 🙂

    1. Thank you. Yes, it is perfect for summer. Very light and a story with humour. It is best to relax with and you know for sure that it would be a happy ending. I so hate it when I read a book during vacation and it has a sad ending.

  3. So glad you enjoyed this. Funnily enough, I picked up a couple of Thirkell’s novels in a charity shop a month or so ago, and I think this might be one of them. The link to Trollope’s Barsetshire is interesting – I wasn’t aware of that!

    1. Great. They are nice light reads and perfect to relax with. A cup of tea and this will promise you many chuckles over the pages. Hope you will enjoy the read. High Rising is not her best work. Wild Strawberries is supposed to be very good.

    1. Angel Thirkell was a well known writer in the 30s 40s and 50s. then her fame diminished. Recent reprints by Virago Press have brought her to the limelight again. Hope you enjoy the read when you pick it up

  4. I think that it is interesting that a book that is known to be light and fun has endured and is still popular after all these years.

    I would guess that is a sign that Thirkell is a better writer then most.

  5. Wow that cover really is beautiful! This book sounds really great and I’m curious to see how much I can relate to this “contemporary” story that was written decades ago. It sounds really funny and light. Will definitely keep my eye out for this one and this author.

  6. I bought this for myself as a birthday present! It’s on my list of 10 Books of Summer, so I will be getting to it very soon. Can’t wait! Sounds right up my alley – I adore Barbara Pym’s novels and have an affinity for British literature.

  7. This was such a lovely light read wasn’t it Resh. I felt Thirkell was talking somewhat about herself when describing Laura Morland. I will be reading Wild Strawberries soon.

    1. Yes, indeed. I read a few articles that talked about how Laura was based on Thirkell herself. Hope you really enjoy Wild Strawberries. That is supposed to be better than High Rising and one of her best.

  8. Gosh, I’m really conflicted here. This novel sounds quite fun and charming, and I kind of want to read it. But I’m also kind of afraid the read the novel too– a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that the novel was published in 1933. When I read older books, I think I tend to struggle to appreciate the style; it kind of makes me feel like a ninny, really. (I know I should actually just suck it up and seek this book out [even though I have zero experience with Jerome K Jerome, Barbara Pym, Gibbons and Wodehouse] because I might surprisingly enjoy it).

    1. I know what you mean. Sometimes when I see novels published long ago (especially if set in another region) I become skeptical whether I will be able to relate to it. Don’t worry. This has none of that drama and politics. It is the story of a few houses. And neighbourhood dynamics stays pretty much the same over ages and in different regions.

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