Discovering a new author is so much fun, especially when they have published many books, and you know you have those to look forward to as well. Such is the case with Angela Thirkell, and Pomfret Towers which is part of her 29-volume Barsetshire series. I received this book from a Secret Santa, and was looking for fun, light reads over the holidays. Pomfret Towers fit the bill completely.
The novel is set in Barsetshire, a fictional English county created by Anthony Trollope. Where Trollope’s novels are set in the 1850-60s, Thirkell’s take place in the first half of the twentieth century. Pomfret Towers centers on a weekend house party for the young people of Barsetshire, hosted by the elderly Lord and Lady Pomfret. For Alice Barton, it is her first house party and she’s scared to death: unsure of what to wear, how to conduct herself, and what to expect of servants. Her first instinct is to excuse herself completely, but she is convinced to attend when she learns good friends Roddy & Susan Wicklow will be there, along with her brother Guy. Once at Pomfret Towers, Alice meets a couple of young men who capture her interest, and the feelings seem to be mutual. But Alice is an unlikely match for both, so one wonders throughout how all this will turn out. Needless to say, over the course of the weekend there is much courting, and matchmaking by older members of the party, and Thirkell keeps the reader guessing about how people will pair off. Because, of course, they do.
Thirkell delivers the romantic storyline with a strong dose of social satire, poking fun at certain character types. Besides Lord Pomfret, who provides considerable much comedic value, she makes fun of authors, like this one:
Mrs Barton was well known as the author of several learned historical novels about the more obscure bastards of Popes and Cardinals, with a wealth of documentation that overawed reviewers. Owing to living so much in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, she sometimes found it difficult to remember where she was. … When the tide ebbed, leaving her stranded upon the shores of everyday life, she would emerge in a dazed condition to preside at her own table, or take a fitful interest in her neighbours. (p. 3-4)
There are also annoying party guests, social climbers, and several all-around good people. Mix them up with an interesting and funny story line, and you have a highly enjoyable novel. I look forward to reading more of this series.