Friday, May 22, 2009

REVIEW: Wild Strawberries, by Angela Thirkell

Wild Strawberries, by Angela Thirkell. This edition published by Moyer Bell, 2008. Fiction.

Summer for me always starts with Memorial Day Weekend, and here in Boston we are experiencing perfect weather at the moment- warm, sunny, no humidity. So since it's a lovely almost-summer day, and since we have a long weekend ahead of us, what better time for the perfect summer-long-weekend book?

Wild Strawberries, by British writer Angela Thirkell, is just such a book. Originally published in 1934 and set in the upper-class countryside of stately homes and delicate constitutions, it's part of a larger series called The Barsetshire Novels, about the relationships of several genteel families over time. This particular outing has for its subject the romances and intrigues of the Leslie family, headed by Lady Emily, a matriarch with a fondess for handcrafts and meddling. Her family, including her feckless husband, her devotedly domestic daughter Agnes and her charming layabout of a son David, form the center of various lighthearted hijinks.

Two main dramas unfold over the course of a few summer weeks- Agnes's niece Mary is come to visit, and falls for David, while John, a widower, falls for her. Meanwhile, Lady Emily's grandson Martin has fallen in with a family of French monarchists staying at a house nearby. Around this family flutters a variety of eccentric characters, including a mooching horticulturalist, a London career woman and Agnes's perpetually naughty children.

Wild Strawberries is a charming, light, thoroughly enjoyable little romp. Beautifully crafted and filled with vivid characters and sharp turns of phrase, I don't know how I went so long without it. I heard about Thirkell a long time ago (I forget where) and this is the first book of hers I've read; I've already bought another Barsetshire novel and I know it won't be the last. If you like P.G. Wodehouse, light romances and English countryside comedies of manners, Wild Strawberries will be just your cup of tea.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.