It felt like Thirkell was a little bored with the romance herself and just wanted to wrap the book up. I'm not a Thirkell convert yet, but I am willing to read more of her books.
Wild Strawberries is the story of one aristocratic English family and one glorious summer in between the wars. Sir Henry and Lady Emily lost their eldest son in the Great War, and they still feel his loss, but they are happy with their home, their lives and their family around them. It was lovely though to watch her with her children; she found such joy in being a mother, and her offspring gave the story such natural charm and comedy. Mary was Agness husbands niece, and Agnes had invited her to Rushwater House for the summer, while her mother was abroad for the sake of her health. She was lovely, and she clearly enjoyed having a place in a large, extended family, and spending her summer in a big house set in glorious countryside. The mix of characters family, staff, visitors and incidents keep things moving along nicely; the comedy rises and falls beautifully too, from laugh out loud to gentle smile; there are so many wonderful dialogues; and the quiet sorrow, from the loss of a son and a wife, bring just enough balance to stop the story feeling too light and too silly.
Of the three Angela Thirkell novels I have read this is my favourite - it is wonderful! 'Wild Strawberries' is set in a Downton Abbey type world. As you read books from different periods you notice how the language changes. Agnes Graham is beautiful but apathetic - she has 'a very gentle voice, which she never took the trouble to raise', and now lives 'in a state of perfectly contented subjection to her adoring husband and children' (p30).
What was left of the charm was finished by the fact that the romantic plot was a fiasco where the girl- who sucked in all romantic scenarios, sorry- could have reasonably ended up with either guy into the last ten pages and therefore I had little to no investment in it.
That said, it has most of the Thirkell virtues: the dialogue is funny, the characters are charmingly wacky and thoroughly English without falling into stereotypes, the interpersonal dynamics lead the action into deliciously comedic scenes. When the secondary family, the Boulles, came on the scene I didn't enjoy them as much: their absurdities felt overdrawn and a little adolescent-tedious.
In the days between the wars life goes on as usual for Lady Emily and Mr. Leslie and their family. Their grandson Martin is fast becoming a man and will one day take over the estate, second son John is a quiet widower still mourning his late wife, much to his parents' sorrow; youngest son David is jolly and irrepressible as he figures out his path in life; their daughter Agnes is visiting with her brood for the summer as is Agnes' husband's niece Mary. John is a much better man. If he realizes Uncle John is a better person than David at the moment, he'll turn out all right. I feel sorry for her because she acts all sophisticated and snobbish but she is really such an innocent. I know many of my Good Reads friends like the series.
Angela Margaret Mackail was born on January 30, 1890 at 27 Young Street, Kensington Square, London. Angela's mother, Margaret Burne-Jones, married John Mackail - an administrator at the Ministry of Education and Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. Angela also wrote a book of children's stories entitled The Grateful Sparrow using Ludwig Richter's illustrations; a biography of Harriette Wilson, The Fortunes of Harriette; an historical novel, Coronation Summer, an account of the events in London during Queen Victoria's Coronation in 1838; and three semi-autobiographical novels, Ankle Deep and Oh, These Men, These Men and Trooper to the Southern Cross. Angela is buried in Rottingdean alongside her daughter Mary and her Burne-Jones grandparents.