Ankle Deep

Angela Mackail Thirkell, Author
Angela Mackail Thirkell, Author Moyer Bell $12.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-55921-158-1
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Thirkell (The Headmistress), a British author who wrote close to a book a year from the 1930s until her death in 1961, has a light and surefooted voice, but while this novel (written in 1933 and published now in the U.S. for the first time) is a pleasant enough read, it never approaches meaningful complexity. Fanny Turner is a crafty woman who ""would have felt sentiment of an infuriated kind"" if her family duties had ever interfered with her frenetic social life. One weekend she invites Valentine Ensor, a divorced school friend of her husband Arthur, for a weekend, along with an older couple, the Howards, who bring along their daughter, the somewhat dour Aurea Palgrave. Aurea is now married and living quite unhappily in Canada, but Arthur had once been in love with her. The weekend is a somewhat predictable time of star-crossed love and slight misunderstandings that lead nowhere. Fanny is quite forward, and although she is married claims that one should always carry on with several men at once because ""If you only care for one you'll always get hurt."" These characters are so reserved and socially programmed that they never reveal their true selves, and after a while the sparkling prose loses its appeal. Aurea and Valentine, for example, lust after each other endlessly, spend lots of time agonizing over what to do, only to do, in fact, nearly nothing. Glossy writing about people being polite to each other can only stretch so far. (Apr.)
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