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!