T. H. White
Gorging on ice cream, wondering whether to cook two roast geese or three, mixing up cocktails whose strength leaves casual visitors prostrate – the Larkins are gargantuan in their appetites. Magnificently vulgar, their house contains a galleon-shaped cocktail cabinet and gold taps in the bathroom (over which local ladies exclaim in horror). Yet the entire Larkin family is also blessed with an acute appreciation for nature and beauty, revelling in hearing the nightingale, wandering through the bluebell wood and enjoying the splendid bounty of their surroundings. The Larkins infect everyone around them with their own Homeric lust for life; from prim Miss Pilchester who longs for Pop’s velvety kisses, to the anaemic tax officer who falls in love with the exquisitely seductive Mariette. ‘The Larkins’ secret,’ H. E. Bates wrote, ‘is in fact that they live as many of us would like to live if only we had the guts and nerve to flout the conventions.’
Pop’s determination not to pay tax and to make the most of the National Health ‘lark’ might still attract disapproval, but Bates’s genius was to balance Pop’s roguery with his unflagging zest. No matter how many cocktails have been consumed the night before, Pop is up to feed the animals before dashing away to wheel and deal; and even the youngest children sell wildflowers to passing motorists. His family’s boundless energy is in stark contrast to the local gentry struggling to hold on to estates or get by on tiny pensions. By the end of this effervescent comedy the Larkins have seduced, charmed or outwitted every other character – and the reader as well.
The journalist and former editor of Granta, Ian Jack, comments in his affectionate introduction that when Bates was writing in 1958, rationing had only recently ended and most readers would have drooled with anticipation at the descriptions of Jersey cream, butter, fat asparagus, sizzling bacon and golden-yolked eggs; ‘even today, it would take a strong-willed reader to get more than half-way through the book and resist a visit to the fridge.’ Alice Tait – who proved her devotion to fine food in her tasty illustrations to Jane Grigson’s Good Things – has managed to capture the full sensual pleasure of the Larkins. Perfick!
Review by harlequin1088 on 17th Mar 2012
"This is a fabulous book. Wonderful illustrations and beautifully bound. This would make a fantastic gift for any fan of the Larkin family."