2008: 103. The Old Bank House

“Edgewood Rectory is a comfortable early nineteenth century house in the small market town of Edgewood, over Chaldicotes way.”

The Old Bank House, Angela Thirkell

Angela Thirkell is an English writer who wrote a series of novels set in a the same fictional Barsetshire county that Trollope invented, only her books are written in the twentieth century, rather than the 19th.  They are, I gather, a loosely interconnected, and tell various stories of the lives of the people who live there, with certain characters recurring from book to book, and others newly arriving, as plot demands.  The Old Bank House, which is the only one I’ve read*, tells the story of the titular house, which a Miss Sowerby has sold to Mr. Sam Adams, a self made man who is now a member of Parliament.  As well as Mr. Adams’ story (which goes along the lines of Ms. Sowerby warning him that “There’s only one thing I must tell you about the house, Mr. Adams ... It likes a  mistress.”), we meet the local vicar and his children, who are growing up, and finding their place in life - particularly Tom, who is back from the War (the second war) and trying to find a profession with little luck, and Eleanor, who will fall in love with a handsome solicitor, if her foolish crush on a married lord doesn’t ruin it all.  

The book has some flaws, namely Thirkell’s clear class prejudice, which looms large - the upper class are better than the lower class, no question, though to be fair, Mr. Adams is treated with great respect and is obviously meant to be a hero (it’s just tiresome to have every other character vocally like him despite his background).  But if you can swallow that part, the characters do seem like real (if slightly snobbish) people and she is particularly good at capturing uncomfortable human emotions, like Eleanor’s silly crush, or Tom’s chagrin at finding himself somewhat useless.  I can see how it would be enjoyable to read the whole series of her books - it’s escapist reading, for sure, but there is more to it than that, and it is fun to read books that recreate an entire world for you.  The mere post-World War II Britain aspect alone would be be enough to sustain the interest of someone historically minded, and the love affairs are pretty fun too.  I won’t kill myself to get more Thirkell (in fact, I gather a lot of it is out of print and somewhat hard to find), but I’d pick up another if I saw one used, and I would probably quite enjoy it.

*Though I have actually read another Thirkell, published by Virago, her Trooper to the Southern Cross, which is about Australians after WWI  And, I see, didn’t really like.  This book is better.

Date/Place Completed: 6/25/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Commuting Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017