Young Mary Preston has been invited to spend the summer at the sprawling country estate of Rushwater, belonging to Lady Emily Leslie. ‘Wild Strawberries’ is the story of that very idyllic time, Mary Preston’s romantic entanglements and the summertime activities of the landed country gentry.
Rather than being made to feel like the poor relation, down and out on her luck, Mary is welcomed by her Aunt Agnes (Aunt by marriage) and Aunt Agnes’ mother- the very vague but likable character of Lady Emily. Aunt Agnes and Lady Emily have secret plans to forge a match between Mary and the widowed second son of Lady Emily- John Leslie. Despite John cutting a very tragic figure, there are more Mr Leslies’ for Mary to contend with. There’s the youngest son- David Leslie, charming but rather unreliable. Will Mary be able to follow the true callings of her heart during this glorious summer at Rushwater?
‘Wild Strawberries’ was a beautiful, bucolic summer read. What really endeared this book to me were its host of rather wonderful characters: the vague Lady Emily forever looking for something, the doting young mother Agnes, always making excuses for her children’s behaviour and flitting about without a care in the world, the charming self-centred playboy David Leslie and the mature, thoughtful mannered widower John Leslie.
Throw in the French neighbours, the pompous figure of Mr Holt, a few midnight balls, summer walks and shopping trips down to London and you have the makings of yet another stellar read from the very funny Angela Thirkell.
As with other Thirkell novels, the beauty of the novels don’t lie in the weak plots but in the rather full bodied, lovable characters. They have mannerisms and flaws in their characters but they are always very believable. Thirkell imparts to them such well timed, comedic humour that these books are a joy to read.
Title: Wild Strawberries
Author: Angela Thirkell
Setting: Rushwater Estate, Barsetshire, England
Characters: Mary Preston, Aunt Agnes, Lady Emily, John Leslie, David Leslie, Madame Boulle, Joan Stevenson, Gudgeon.