Tuesday, 30 July 2013

High Rising by Angela Thirkell

published 1933 Chapter 1








She had…decided that, next to racing, murder, and sport, the great reading public of England (female section) likes to read about clothes. With real industry she got introductions, went over big department stores, visited smart dressmaking friends, talked to girls she knew who had become buyers or highbrow window-dressers, and settled down to write best-sellers. Her prevision was justified, and she now had a large, steady reading public, who apparently could not hear too much about the mysteries of the wholesale and retail clothes business



One of her novels had even been dramatised with considerable success, its central scene being the workroom of the famous Madame Koska, where a minion of a rival firm got taken on as a bodice hand, and made notes of advance season models. But a judgment fell on her when, in the handsome traveller for a French silk manufacturer, she recognised the lover she had robbed and left some years ago. How he also recognised her, the struggle in his breast between love and duty, how the honour of the dressmaking world got the upper hand, how he denounced her to Madame Koska, how Madame forgave her, how the mannequins struck half an hour before Madame’s spring opening, how the minion went on and wore forty-eight frocks with such ravishing grace that Madame Koska took five thousand pounds’ worth of orders in that afternoon alone: all this is too long and improbable to relate.



observations: Laura, a widow, needs to make money to raise her fine sons, so has taken to writing these potboilers/bestsellers - what a pity we can't read them, right up the blog's street.

Thirkell is very funny in this book on the youngest boy, and achieves something that is quite rare in books: Tony is delightful, and it is clear his mother loves him very much, but he is shown as being very very boring to spend any time with. He is obsessed, convincingly, with model railways, and goes on and on about them at length. He sounds completely normal and nice, but tedious.
Laura had once offered to edit a book called Why I Hate my Children…’

There is also a splendid scene in which Tony is found in a tempest of tears: he has written a poem (printed in the book) which is so, so sad and touching that he cannot help weeping for its beauty.

Very much of its time department: Tony has fond memories of being blooded on his first foxhunt ie having the blood of the dead fox rubbed all over his face. He would seem to be about 7 at the time. (Another child goes fox-hunting, similar era, in this book.)

Of course, Thirkell and Laura are right – fashion salons are fascinating. The play Nine till Six, here and here, is set in one, Nancy Mitford’s Linda is as much a habituee as her creator, and Suzanne from Madensky Square has a salon in a small kind of way.

High Rising has featured before with a gruesome New Year’s Eve party.

The pictures are by Edouard Vuillard, the Dressmaking Studio I and II, from the Athenaeum website.

8 comments:

  1. I keep trying to order a copy of Nine till Six and getting sent Steel Magnolias instead.

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    1. How weird! I got mine from amazon marketplace...

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  2. Moira - I can just imagine Tony and his passion for model railroads. I've known kids who were obsessed like that and I can see how Laura feels the way she does. ;-) - And what an interesting concept - to write a novel about a novelist. I like the way she goes about doing research for her stories, too. It sounds like a fun read.

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    1. Yes Margot - it's very lightweight, but very enjoyable, and Laura and the author are very funny about various aspects of life!

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  3. Why I Hate My Children......sounds like an interesting book, I nearly penned something similar myself back in the early 2000's (3 born - 95, 96 and 98)
    It would have been followed by a couple of sequels, Why I Adore My Children and Why Do My Children Exasperate Me

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  4. I hear you Col - all good (or even not-very-good) parents could write all those books.

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  5. Moira! This is one of my very favourite books. I love Tony and love the portrait of the writer as mother. Also the contrasting views of the non-literary and literary writer in Laura and her pompous pal the historical writer.

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    1. Yes there are some very good moments in this book, and some intriguing characters. I love the pompous writer - he featured on the blog in this entry http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/dress-down-sunday-high-rising-by-angela.html with his weird discussion of his daughter's trousseau.

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