Somehow Ankle Deep has a different feel from the Barsetshire series. You can tell it’s one of Angela Thirkell’s earlier works by the occasional authorly tone she takes, often telling the reader about the characters rather than showing. Perhaps she was trying for a different audience here, as her characterizations are usually my favorite part. Mrs. Howard seemed the most real to me, though we see so much more of Aurea.
I was a littled shocked by the passive attitudes towards affairs; though married, Aurea sees her fascination with Valentine as perfectly acceptable as long as she crosses no physical boundaries. In fact, Thirkell explains that it would have been better if they kissed at the outset and had stopped any deeper emotions, rather then allowing an unhealthy yearning to develop. Fanny engages in countless harmless flirtations with men of all ages and statuses, even scheming for Aurea to become a pasttime for her husband Arthur. The characters must all be in their thirties, yet act like adolescents.
I’m still also stupefied by the apparent parent-child relationship in England at this time. Progeny are shipped off to boarding schools for the majority of the year, and Fanny claims herself unequal to the task of handling her boys even for the holidays. On the other hand, Aurea has an extremely close, even childlike, interdependence with her parents, though she doesn’t seem to pine for her own offspring back in Canada.
Overall the tone of the work was that of unavoidable tragedy, at least for Aurea, and yet the inner courage to carry on while knowing it. I think this may be the only stand-alone fiction she wrote, other than books that were somewhat autobiographical in nature, and I look forward to returning to the comedy.