I received this book in a lovely unChristmas/unBirthday parcel from dear Verity, opened on Christmas Day so joining the other mass of books tumbling over the sofa at the moment, and couldn’t resist picking it up to read now, for obvious reasons!

Angela Thirkell – “Christmas At High Rising”

(25 December 2017 – from Verity)

A slim collection of short stories, only two of which are actually set at Christmas (the skating one is set on Valentine’s Day!) but it’s a good collection and publishers must sell books, so I’ll forgive the slightly odd title.

Several of the stories feature the terrible Tony Morland, and also George Knox, the pretentious author; I’m amused rather than annoyed by these two, so that was OK. Thirkell does like a laugh at her characters’ expense and she writes them so consistently, it’s always funny to encounter them.

I enjoyed The Private View, all about an exhibition of an artist’s works, undermining the art scene and with the lovely heroine, niece of the artist and horrified to be known as the model for his most sappy painting, bemoaning her ordinary status. If only she could be a “courageous, pushing” woman “or even a brave, pathetic woman” rather than a “nice ordinary polite woman” who can’t push and gets trapped in situations. Haven’t we all felt like that at some point?

The essay on parties in Shakespeare was unusual but amusing, and I laughed at Tony taking on horse-riding lessons: as the groom patiently says, “He’ll never learn to ride, not if he was to ride all his life, but he’ll stick to the horse somehow”. Doesn’t that just sum up Tony’s “triumphs”? My favourite story of the lot was the final one, A Nice Day in Town, as Laura Morland, in wartime, sets off to London and has very much not a Nice Day, fruitlessly chasing all sorts of objects. Although it’s light and humorous, it really does give a taste of the privations of wartime, and there’s even a rather pathetic mention of Tony, off on service.

An enjoyable and light read, perfect for this time of year, even if not all the stories are Christmas ones.

Have you read any Christmas-themed books this holiday season? I know some of you make a point of doing so. I’ve just been loaned a couple of festive Macombers and might succumb to them tomorrow …