Saturday, March 18, 2017

What I Read in June 2016 Part I. . .

What I Read in June 2016 Part I. . .

August FollyAugust Folly by Angela Thirkell--Historical Fiction/Romance

Summer in the Barsetshire town of Worsted is a busy time. Young Richard Tebben is home after failing his final exams at Oxford. His sister Margaret is also home for the summer after a year abroad. Their scholarly parents have little time for them and Richard likes it that way. He's horribly embarrassed by his gauche parents who ride around in a donkey cart and insist on keeping a terrible cook. Then the wealthy Dean family arrives to spend the summer with the Palmers, her brother and sister-in-law. The Deans have 9 children and 6 are with them: Laurence, the eldest son and former cricket player now busy in his father's office; Helen, the automobile lover; Betty, the scholar; Susan and Robin, a pair of mischievous youngsters and little Jessica. Richard develops an infatuation with Mrs. Dean and is determined the Deans think highly of him. Laurence loves Margaret Tebben who regards him as a friend and Mrs. Palmer has a scheme that will involve most of them. Her grand idea is to stage the Greek play Hippolytus and force everyone to participate. Before the busy summer gives way to autumn, they will be a little older and a little wiser.

This story has very little plot. The subject of the play gets picked up, dropped, picked up and dragged out too long. I really liked the Austen references though I didn't understand all of the literary references. It was slightly funny in parts but mostly I found the story too slow to really hook me. Some parts are from the POV of the animals which is really strange and jarring.

I kept forgetting who the characters were. There are so many of them the book needs a cheat sheet in the beginning to keep them all straight. I didn't really care for most of them. The only ones I really liked were Robin and Susan because they were funny. They reminded me of Felix in Georgette Heyer's Frederica though they were mischievous on purpose. Their final scene is VERY reminiscent of Heyer. I didn't like Richard much at all. By his age he should be over that teen angst stuff. He's so horrid to his parents and wants a different lifestyle than they can provide. His infatuation is silly and worthy of a young school boy. I kept forgetting he was done with his final year at university because he acted so young. Margaret is just the opposite. She is a little too sweet and good for my taste. She has a little too much pride. I didn't care for Helen either. She's very cold. She loves cars and that's not something I can relate to or understand. She wasn't very kind to anyone. I didn't care for her plot much and I was a little surprised at what happened. I wanted to like Betty because she's an intellectual but she was just too priggish about it.

The Tebben parents seem kind in their own abstracted way. I would like to have parents who are such noted scholars. Richard and Margaret don't take after their parents at all. Mr. Tebben is a little hard to really feel kindly towards but behind his crotchety and selfish manner is a man starved for intellectual companionship in his field and he can be congenial when he wants to be.

The Dean parents are also a bit distracted but more involved in their children's lives. Rachel is a lot like Lady Emily's daughter in Wild Strawberries - consumed with love for her family and blind to anything else. Included in their family group is Charles Fanshawe, an Oxford don and family friend. He's kind and I liked how he noticed what was going on around him- the only adult who knew everything and served as a confidant - almost like a priest.

Finally, there's Modestine, the donkey alias Neddy. He plays a huge role in the story. Though I normally love animal companions, he didn't really do anything for me.

Summer Half by Angela Thirkell--Historical Fiction/Romance

Colin Keith thinks it's high time he start earning his keep. It will be ages before he can practice law and though his dad is a generous man, Colin feels he ought to do more to support himself. He takes a job at a boys' school for the spring term until he can take up the study of law with his father's new friend, Mr. Merton. Colin's sister Kate also has plans for her future and his little sister Lydia just wants to read and discuss literature. The boys are sometimes tough to deal with but even harder is dodging Headmaster Birkett's beautiful daughter Rose. Rose is engaged to fellow teacher Philip Winter but flirts with every eligible man around. 

This story didn't interest me much. It was way too slow for me and I had to skip over most parts set in the school because the subject is not something I can relate to, not being a boy or having attended boarding school. The parts out of school were more interesting and I really liked the Keith family and wished the story had focused more on the rest of them than Colin. The romantic subplot kind of surprised me. It sort of fizzled at the end. There was also an insane amount of classic literature references, very few I understood, having studied American literature and 19th century British literature. 

Colin is the most boring member of his family and the most boring of the staff. His sister Kate fits the stereotype of a proper young lady but teenage Lydia is a hoot. I just loved her. She stole every scene she was in. I found the teachers largely dull as well, especially Winter who is apparently a Communist. The characters like to debate him on the merits of Communism vs. Fascism vs. Imperialism and all their attitudes seem dated and shocking by modern standards. The young boys were amusing at times. I especially liked brainy Hacker and his pet chameleon. He reminded me of Neville Longbottom. My least favorite character was Rose. She's so empty headed, frivolous and vain. She gives women a bad name and I just wanted to smack her. 

I won't remember anything about this book by tomorrow and at some point I may pick it up again and won't have any memory of having read it, but it wasn't terrible- just slow and uninteresting.

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