Following the social event of the summer, the marriage of Rose Birkett (the county's scatterbrain heart-breaker), Fall brings WWII. The transition to war introduces unexpected elements into the Barsetshire milieu. Despite the newly sombre atmosphere, evacuee children (see Nurse's 'lust for power over babies'), nouveau riche 11migr11s (Mr Gissings' suspiciously shaped head), and the Mixo-Lydians (and their embroideries) afford opportunities for snatching humour from the jaws of bleakness. The Bissells, lower-middle-class heads of a billeted non-U school, share, with the gentry, a mutual bewilderment of values. Mrs Morland muses on Mrs Bissell's business-like acceptance of 'the sinister implications of Adelina Cottage' shared by Miss Hampton and Miss Bent. The Keith family takes centre stage as Lydia cares for the estate and her ailing mother while her friends pursue nursing and other war work. The young men pursue the young ladies and wartime accelerates the usual romantic coupling for a total of five, a record even for Thirkell.
Angela Thirkell, grand-daughter of pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, was born in London in 1890. She began writing novels in 1930 to support herself and her sons. She produced a new book almost every year for the rest of her life. Her stylish prose and deft portrayal of human comedy in the imaginary county of Barsetshire have delighted readers for decades. She died in 1961 aged 70.