Paperback of the week
High Rising Angela Thirkell Virago Modern Classics, £8.99
Starting in the 1930s, Thirkell wrote 29 social comedies set in the fictional English village of Barsetshire, and now Virago has reprinted two from the series. In High Rising, novelist Laura fears that her neighbour, George, is about to be tricked into marrying his scheming secretary. Not only is the minxy interloper a social climber, but she is (horrors!) Irish. Obviously it’s incumbent on Laura and other right- minded folk to repel the incubus. Thirkell’s writing is bright, brisk and ultra-British. Think Nancy Mitford, only middle class, at a time when middle class means having servants but not necessarily a telephone. Some of the humour holds up: Laura considers editing a book called Why I Hate My Children, and every local mother offers to contribute. But many attitudes have aged badly, including those towards Jews, the Irish, the Welsh, drink-driving, mental illness and plebs who don’t know their place.