While I am in the mode of talking about authors—and for a change in subject—I want to recommend the novels of Angela Thirkell.
She was a twentieth century author of extraordinary prolific output. She wrote a novel in almost every year from 1931 through 1961. These are family sagas; most are also love stories. They are funny and yet deadly serious as well. Each novel’s “time” is the year in which they were written; many of the same characters appear in book after book, first as children, later as adults. Thirkell had the brilliant idea to set her novels in Barsetshire, a fictional county invented by Anthony Trollope.
I’ve found that the novels written during and after World War II are by far the best. The earlier works don’t appeal to me quite so much. Something happened to the English during the war, and this change also deepened Thirkell’s own take on the world.
These are truly weird novels. You fall into them. You start to live the lives of the characters. I’ve read about ten of them now. If my library is a good random sample, there will be two or three of them present on the shelves. I started with Love Among the Ruins (1948) and got caught.
Brigitte got me started. She picked up a stray comment on Thirkell in a column by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the New York Times. Klinkenborg said something to the effect that one tends to hide the book lest visitors see what you’re reading (not high literature). Since we think that Klinkenborg himself is right up there with the best of writers, this was enough for a trip to the library. To see Klinkenborg on the subject of Thirkell, read here.