The denouement of Philip Winters ill-begotten engagement to featherbrained Rose Birkett is enacted in full view of Southbridge School's extended family during a holiday break. Everyone, including her parents, is rooting for Philip's escape which occurs when Rose breaks it off as the utter dullness of being engaged overwhelms her. Along the way, we enjoy the tea party where Rose, "through sheer want of personality bring(s) the talk to her own level" and confounds her audience by insisting that Hamlet and Shakespeare are both names of plays (and probably the same one). As in many of Thirkell books, the characters refer to a body of literature, both classic and modern, with a casualness that would be improbable today; the assumption of a shared background and culture having been lost. The ceremony of the Cleaning of the Pond by Lydia, Eric Swan, and a much improved Tony Morland brings the holiday to a satisfactory conclusion as does a match between Kate Keith and Everard Carter.
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.