Wild Strawberries

Almost exactly a year ago, I read High Rising by Angela Thirkell, the first in her long Barsetshire series. I was utterly charmed, and instantly put the second, Wild Strawberries, on my TBR list. Now that I’ve read it, I am totally at a loss to explain what could have possessed me to take so long to get around to it. Once again, I was completely taken with the cheering, delightful nature of this book, the wit, the gentle satire, and the astute insight into human nature. Why? Why didn’t I read it sooner?

Once again, the plot is rather on the back burner. Wild Strawberries deals with the large-ish family of Lady Emily Leslie. We are introduced to the sensible Mary Preston, who develops an unreasonable crush on the devastatingly handsome (but flighty) David Leslie; to the widower John Leslie; to the no-nonsense Joan Stevenson; to the nasty little toady, Mr. Holt; and (perhaps my favorite sub-plot) to poor Martin Leslie, who must take language lessons from a passionately Royalist set of visiting Frenchmen. If you can imagine a fizzy screwball comedy, populated by all your favorite British actors, you’ve about got it down.

The prose is delightful, too. It’s amusing without being frenetic, with just enough seriousness to balance it: this family has known pain and loss, and they care about each other deeply, but the sparkling writing ripples just above those feelings. One or two scenes even brought tears to my eyes. It’s really marvelously done: perfect entertainment. I honestly didn’t want it to end. I was only able to comfort myself by the reassurance that this time, I wouldn’t let a year go by before reading the next installment: August Folly.

Just a note: I read an older edition, from my library. The Moyer Bell edition, where I pulled my thumbnail cover picture from, has a lot of reviews that mention “hundreds” of typos and printing errors. Get an older edition of this one if you can!

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12 Responses to Wild Strawberries

  1. Tony says:

    So, inferior writer steals Trollope’s setting to promote her own writing…

    Erm, no.

    • Jenny says:

      Well, it’s not really like that! More of an homage. Thirkell was a great admirer of Trollope — wrote intelligent introductions to several of his works — and using his setting was not a way to promote her own “inferior” writing but to enjoy and admire it while doing her own different thing.

  2. Lisa says:

    I’ve just seen that Vintage is reprinting Thirkell’s series, which is long over-due. The Leslies play such a big part in the later books, and Martin is one of my favorite characters.

  3. This was the very first Thirkell I ever read and, as you know, it completely converted me into a Thirkell nut. It is difficult to track down used copies (and yes, the Moyer Bell editions are lazily edited) and I am so excited that the new Virago editions of this and High Rising will be out in only a few months. The covers are up on Amazon.co.uk and they are absolutely beautiful! I’m also having so much fun reading Trollope’s Barsetshire books alongside Thirkell’s and appreciating how she wove his families into her stories.

    • Jenny says:

      I have been using my library’s ILL system to find older copies, but I’m so delighted that Virago is reprinting them and that they are so lovely!

  4. Deb says:

    For many years, the Moyer Bell editions of Thirkell’s books were really the only ones that were generally available. I never noticed massive amounts of typos and errors, but ut’s been a while since I read them. One word of advice: you can easily burn out on Thirkell’s work if you read too much of it on too compressed a time-frame. Space out your reading of her books to enjoy them more.

  5. Stephanie says:

    “If you can imagine a fizzy screwball comedy, populated by all your favorite British actors, you’ve about got it down.” That alone is enough to sell me. :)

  6. Danielle says:

    I’m in the same boat–I’ve read High Rising and have Wild Strawberries–I really need to pick it up as I am sure I will love the next as much as the first (and suspect I’ll wonder too why I waited so long!). Glad to hear Virago is reissuing them–the Moyer Bell editions seem hard to get! Thanks for the push–will have to go grab my own copy from my bookpile!

  7. aartichapati says:

    Oh, I’m glad to hear that people are saying that this book will be reprinted! I read High Rising some time ago and, like you, was utterly delighted by it. But it’s really hard to find Thirkell’s books! Glad to know I can get this one if I am just patient.

  8. Anne says:

    Hello Jenny, I’m hoping you (or anyone) can help. I almost purchased High Rising on Amazon but then noticed the reviews criticizing the publisher Moyer Bell for all of the typographical errors. Can anyone tell me if the Virago editions contain the same errors?

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