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Thirkell, Angela

A novelist in the tradition of Austen and Trollope, who revived Trollope's county of Barsetshire as the setting for her light but delicious books of observation and social comedy. Deserves a more sparkling description.

Angela Thirkell wrote around twenty books with a Barsetshire setting, following the affections and mild adventures of a handful of county families and surrounding these people with a gallery of assorted minor characters. The society she described has probably disappeared for good: it's hard to imagine, for example, living in a setting where being seen kissing someone was virtually equivalent to announcing your engagement. The people are still around, though, and the fairly innocent snobbery both the author and her characters can display doubtless lives on with different targets. When talking of Angela Thirkell, light does not mean disposable – her lightness is a sureness of touch that lets her sketch people in a couple of phrases without ever declining into caricature.

Good art, I would assert, touches the people who approach it and changes, enriches the way they see things from then on. Angela Thirkell, though probably as modest about her own achievements as Laura Morland, achieves this by describing believable characters; when I catch myself imagining their reactions to people or events I'm just grateful to her for their existence. A long and happy life to Mrs Brandon and Dr Joram, to Miss Hampton and Miss Bent, to Lucy Marling and Sam Adams ... even to that most encroaching of widows Joyce Smith.

Few 'Net resources on Angela Thirkell, so far, but I'm happy to learn that some of the Thirkell Society have managed to tear themselves away from the pleasure of reading and start making a Web site.