9 thoughts on “The outbreak of war: Angela Thirkell’s Cheerfulness Breaks In

  1. Angela Thirkell stands for lots of things I hate and I’m sure she would have disapproved of me, but I love reading her novels, for the wit and social history, as you say, and the continuing creation of Barsetshire. This novel is a particular favourite for Lydia and Noel, of whom I’m very fond.


  2. This is one of my favourite books (Thirkell or otherwise). Anything focused on Lydia, my favourite Thirkell creation, always pleases me but the fact that so much of the action revolves around Southbridge – my favourite of Thirkell’s many setting – clinches it.

    But, much I as love this book, I’m not sure it is one of her best – certainly compared with the books that came immediately before and after it (compared to the post-war books it is brilliant). It has some amazingly funny bits (almost anything related to the changes going on at Southbridge) but I feel like the whole structure of the book is a bit disjointed, with Lydia’s story being crammed in whenever Thirkell felt like a break from Southbridge School, and there are some jingoistic sentiments that just feel so unlike Thirkell (and which vanish from her other wartime novels, presumably once she felt more comfortable expressing her more natural scepticism).


    1. Yes, I’d agree with that observation. As if AT was torn between the kind of fiction she was accustomed to producing for an adoring readership, and discovering a new way to write about her subjects in wartime.


  3. My comment will be similar to Claire’s.

    I enjoy pre-war novels (after Wild Strawberries) and the war novels most in the whole output of AT. And I think she is trying her hand in Cheerfulness Breaks In. It seems divided in two unequal parts with the School on one side and “the rest” on the other. It is a disconcerting narrative structure. Nonetheless, it is a very good novel. As to jingoism and conservative ideas, they belong to time and class. It is difficult to apply our own standards to AT’s time and station in life. I see the books more like keys to her world.

    I have given your link to this entry on my Facebook page and comments are slowly made from people who discover AT and thank you. Potential readership of AT.


  4. I confess to enjoying the Thirkells I have read but she is such a conservative snob I sometimes wonder why. Must be I enjoy the sheer period-pieceness of them all.


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