The Brandons is neither the best nor worst of Angela Thirkell’s many novels set in the literary Barsetshire which Anthony Trollope created, but it will do. After an interruption of several years I have returned to Thirkell with renewed appreciation for what she does. Published in June, 1939, this novel concedes nothing to the threat of war — or much of anything else. Comfortable country people meet, play tennis, serve tea, attend church fetes, and await the death of an unpleasant (but wealthy) elderly aunt.
At the center of the story is Lavinia Brandon, a wealthy and attractive widow. She listens to you sincerely while considering her hat and whether to dye the green georgette for mourning. Still, she is keen to rescue a gentlewomen in distress and arrange a marriage if she can. She is aware of her position and responsibilities. Not to do the right thing can cause trouble in Little Misfit and even as far away as Starveacres.
Mrs. Brandon could never be thankful enough that her husband had died at Cannes and been decently buried in the English cemetery. If he had been buried in Pomfret Madrigal church she would have had to keep his grave and memory decorated with flowers. If she had undertaken this pious duty herself she would certainly have forgotten it and left the flowers, a wet mush of decay, to scandalize the village…. The only alternative Mrs. Brandon could imagine was to have what might be called an all-weather grave, sprinkled with chips from the stone-mason’s yard, or battened down under a granite slab, and to do this to the unconscious Mrs. Brandon would have seemed to his widow a little unkind.
In real life most of us don’t have much use for silly people. In Thirkell country, they are charming and fun and we are secure in an author who makes everything comes out all right in the end.