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Summer Half: A Virago Modern Classic
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Summer Half: A Virago Modern Classic (Paperback)

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To his parents' dismay, Colin Keith - out of the noble but misplaced sense of duty peculiar to high-minded young university graduates - chooses to quit his training for the Bar and take a teaching job at Southbridge School. Little does Colin imagine that he will count among his pupils the demon in human form known as Tony Morland; or that the master's ravishing, feather-brained daughter Rose will, with her flights of fancy and many admirers, spread chaos throughout school and village. Humorous, high-spirited and cleverly observed, Summer Half is a comic delight.

Fiction & PoetryClassic fiction pre 1945 Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group Publication Date: 01/05/2014 ISBN-13: 9781844089697  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
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Angela Thirkell (1890-1961) was the eldest daughter of John William Mackail, a Scottish classical scholar and civil servant, and Margaret Burne-Jones. Her relatives included the pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin, and her grandfather was J. M. Barrie. She was educated in London and Paris, and began publishing articles and stories in the 1920s. In 1931 she brought out her first book, a memoir entitled Three Houses, and in 1933 her comic novel High Rising - set in the fictional county of Barsetshire, borrowed from Trollope - met with great success. She went on to write nearly thirty Barsetshire novels, as well as several further works of fiction and non-fiction. She was twice married and had four children.

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Customer Reviews

This early Thirkell (1937) introduces and develops many of the characters that will continue to entertain, infuriate and interact throughout her Barchestershire series. If this is your first Thirkell, it may take you a while to get into the rhythm of the characters and action; it is a reasonable standalone novel. For those who have already encountered characters like the irrepressible (in every sense) Tony Morland and some others, this continues some of the madness and mayhem that seems to follow him, here paired with the encouraging Swan, whose talent for gently winding up certain teachers is already legendary. This novel begins with Colin Keith almost accidentally getting a temporary job as a teacher at the boys school where the headmaster, Mr Birkett, is struggling to cope with his challenging daughter, Rose, who gets serially engaged. This story is partly the tale of two families, the Birketts and the Keiths, as they progress through a summer term and holidays. It is also a school based story in parts, which includes the complicated but very funny story of the evening that a chameleon leads to fire and flood, wet feet and a damaged kitchen. Sports days, water adventures and exams afflict the younger members of the cast, while some of the adults reel in dismay. Nothing is too trying, difficulties pass, and overall it is a summery story of romance and misunderstandings. Of the female leads, the vacant, inconsiderate Rose is stunning in her disregard for feelings of the hapless males she attracts. Kate Keith is a difficult character to modern eyes, as her obsession with mending clothes verges on the annoying. Nevertheless there are funny situations to be enjoyed, as she unwittingly gathers admiration from the eligible males around her. My favourite is Lydia Keith, the strident but touchingly insightful younger sister who leads the riverside games, plans a very grown up trip to the theatre, and shows courage which provides the shove for mixed up situations. Having read later novels in the series, I know what happens to these and many of the other characters, and Rose improves to everyone’s relief. Thirkell is obviously enjoying herself hugely with this novel, and in common with her other early work, this book shows little of the cynicism which would later creep into her writing. Some of her attitudes to female characters are very much of the time, and can be frustrating. Lydia, on the other hand, with her enthusiasms and excitements, is the centre of the novel in many ways, and is obviously Thirkell’s favourite. I really enjoyed this book, even and perhaps especially on a re read. For some readers Thirkell is a middlebrow, middle class writer without the fireworks and style of someone like a Mitford. This is a comfort read in the best sense, a worthy part of the Barsetshire series, and an enjoyable novel in its own right. This is one of the books reprinted by Virago Modern Classics, and I am glad that it has become much easier to get hold of without internet searching.

- 29/03/2017
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I love these Thirkell reissues from Virageo - they look so pretty and the books are so funny. I love the world she creates and the characters that live there. As an avid reader of boarding school stories I loved the humorous take on the world of the masters at a boys school that you get in this. Rose Birkett is a perfect example of that type of girl that you used to get in a certain type of book or film and is so humourously rendered that you almost forgive her for being so wet and clingy!

- 18/09/2014
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