Ankle Deep

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.

Published in: on April 23, 2009 at 10:10 pm  Comments (1)  
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I’ve been reading Angela Thirkell’s Ankle Deep, and I have to admit that I’m torn about the main character, Aurea. Part of me identifies with her, while part of me is almost repulsed by her, especially her dependence on her parents and contradictory morals.

It’s a somewhat new character reaction for me, and overall I think I just feel sorry for her. This one passage seemed to sum it up nicely:

“Aurea can’t see very far in front of her, and what she sees doesn’t really exist […] She lets ideas fill up the foreground, and spends her time pretending that facts are like ideas, which they aren’t. She can only see what is inside her own imagination […] when she meets facts she runs away from them mentally, or winds them up in a cocoon of imaginings. She lives, I should say, largely in an idealized past, or an imaginary future.”

The other characters constantly describe Aurea as childlike, and everyone seems to want to take care of her. On the one hand she seems completely fragile and unaccustomed to reality, yet on the other she is also aware of this, and bears her misfortunes with quiet courage.

In some ways Aurea’s situation is similar to mine, and I guess that’s what makes me push away from her. Sometimes I feel very young myself, and even revel in it, but I like to think that I’m also able to act in a mature fashion and am capable of adult relationships and responsibilities.

Published in: on April 22, 2009 at 9:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Demon in the House

The irrepressible Tony Morland returns in Angela Thirkell\’s The Demon in the House. I continue to be amazed by her deft characterizations-self-satisfied chatterbox Tony, his friend the silent but stoic Master Wesendonck, worried mother Laura, and no-nonsense Dr. Ford. We\’re also introduced to the vicarage girls, Rose and Dora Gould, as well as their older sister Sylvia who earn\’s Dr. Ford\’s admiration.

The book is a series of amusing escapades, from schoolroom shenanigans to attempts at swimming and bicycling which never quite match what Tony envisions. He wavers in between know-it-all and immature, and somehow has everyone wrapped around his finger. You can\’t help secretly loving the little rapscallion and simultaneously hoping to bring him down a few notches.

I think I\’m officially a Barsetshire fan by now, and can\’t wait to continue spending time with these wonderful friends.

Published in: on April 19, 2009 at 2:38 pm  Leave a Comment  


I’m glad I was able to finish this while I was home on break! Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, is just the type of fantasy book I love. The characters were fully drawn, the plot was unique, and nothing was too outlandish. Best of all, it had books at the heart of it–both the books themselves and the stories they contain, which is indeed a true kind of magic.

It got a little dull in the middle, waiting for the inevitable return to the village, but that must have been how the characters felt as well. I thought the ending was especially well done–it wrapped up the plot of this book, but left loose ends with characters like Dustfinger for the sequel, which I need to read next.

I also loved the quotes at the beginning of chapters, many of which came from favorites like The Princess Bride and Watership Down. It made me feel even more connected to the story as a fellow bibliophile.

I don’t necessarily have a burning desire to see the movie version, but I’d be interested to know how they compare, and if they are planning film sequels as well.

Published in: on April 11, 2009 at 10:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lucia in London

Oftentimes in a group I will choose to spend time with an acquaintance, even if we are not quite friends, rather than risk the unknown of the others. The same is usually true with book characters. Thus with my feelings yet unresolved about Queen Lucia, I set forth into Lucia in London.

Everyone from Riseholme is back to their old tricks, most especially Lucia. I was glad to see that Georgie and Daisy come into their own more here and refuse to be cowed; indeed, they seem more fleshed out when they are no longer under Lucia’s shadow.

By the middle of this book I found myself despising Lucia. Upon inheriting a house in London from her her husband’s aunt, she selfishly abandons her Riseholme friends and drags Peppino off to town for the season. To make matters worse, when then snubs them when she returns with her new cultured peers for a weekend. Riseholme, however, admirably ignores her in return, showing that they can manage themselves and their new museum without her very well.

Just as my mental rants were worst, however, Lucia’s London friends begin discussing her behavior and find it highly entertaining–in particular Adele and Lord Tony. They call themselves the Luciaphiles and are devoted to providing ways for her to triumph in a calculated social game that to her is a matter of life and death.  Just as in the first book we find ourselves interested in Riseholme because Olga Bracely sees it as such, here I began to see Lucia as entertaining only when everyone else seemed to think so. It seems an underhanded trick on Benson’s part, and I’m not sure whether I would be so forgiving towards Lucia otherwise.

I was most upset with her when she abandoned Peppino to go off for a weekend with her pretend lover, as he is one of my favorite characters merely because he hasn’t done anything to annoy me yet. Benson kept hinting at something bad to come, but thankfully Peppino eventually recovered from his illness. This more than anything else made Lucia see reason and come home, and also showed that though selfish, she actually is good at heart.

The series seem laced through with a unique type of spirituality—the first book had gurus, while here all the characters are concentrated on the planchette and Mrs. Quantock’s communication with the indescribable spirit Abfou. Through these means they express their hidden mental agendas, as when Lucia’s spirit Vittoria proves her superiority by predicting the museum fire.

I’m surprisingly looking forward to visiting Riseholme again, and can’t wait to meet the famous Miss Mapp.

Published in: on April 7, 2009 at 9:39 am  Leave a Comment