Archive for the ‘Dorothy Whipple’ Category

The book blog has been sluggish lately because my world is utterly crowded with all sorts of crucially time-voracious real-life stuff, but a wicked virus has knocked me around enough this past week to give me some enforced down time and I have happily read my way through a number of okayish novels. Norah Lofts et al., suitably light but reasonably intelligent amusement for someone under the weather.

And then this one.

Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple. Written in 1932, this was Whipple’s second published novel, and the third I’ve now read.

They Knew Mr. Knight (1934) and Because of the Lockwoods (1949) were highly enjoyable, if slightly melodramatic, but Greenbanks was something on a different level.

Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple. Not my copy - mine is a lovely greyt Persephone - but stolen shamelessly from the internet for the sake of the glowing cover blurb by Hugh Walpole.

Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple. Not my own copy – mine is a lovely grey Persephone – but borrowed shamelessly from the internet (thank you, Milady’s Boudoir) for the sake of the glowing cover blurb by Hugh Walpole.

Ostensibly a sedate family saga, it evolves into a deeply convincing manifesto on the rights of women to self-determination and social, educational, financial and sexual equality. Set in the decades before, during, and immediately after the Great War, centre stage is shared between a family matron and her granddaughter, representatives of the old world and the new, with sporadic but telling secondary roles played by the adult children of the household, their various spouses, lovers, friends and acquaintances.

The ending was unexpected, and deeply satisfying in its blunt refusal to neaten things up in a conventional way; it shocked me because I’d rather expected Whipple to manufacture an eleventh-hour cluster of pleasantly innocuous solutions to its most pressing dilemmas, and she didn’t go there at all.  And it worked.

I am starting to see why Persephone Press is so dead keen on this writer; those first two books piqued my interest but this third one has given rise to real enthusiasm.

If you’re already a Dorothy Whipple person – and I know many of you are – I’d be most pleased to hear your personal opinions on Greenbanks as it stands in her body of work. Is this as good as she gets? Or am I in for some more unexpected readerly surprises?

Someone at a Distance is here on the shelf; it came in the package with Greenbanks just the other day and I am torn between diving right in, and, alternatively, allowing myself some cooling off time, because I’m still processing the deeper nuances of the book I’ve just devoured with such paradoxically reluctant speed.

It’s time to choose my evening’s reading-in-bed book, and I am at a loss at what to attempt, not wanting to diminish the mood. I’m thinking Elizabeth Cambridge, or maybe Rose Macaulay, or perhaps even a return to one of the previously-read Whipples, sure to be well sauced with the piquancy of this fresh appreciation.

The “Whipple Line”, indeed! Virago, hang your metaphorical head in shame!

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because of the lockwoods dorothy whipple 001Because of the Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple ~ 1949. This edition: Longmans, 1949. 1st Canadian edition. Hardcover. 358 pages.

Provenance: Purchased (via ABE) from A Biblio-Omnivore Harvey Lev, Montreal – March 2014.

My rating: 9/10

Sound the trumpets! I have finally read a Dorothy Whipple. And thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, too.

A satisfyingly nasty family of antagonists, and an absolutely feeble (though gentle and well meaning) family of protaganists, saved from themselves by the spunky youngest daughter, with the help of a lower-class social climber who has fallen in love with said daughter and uses his keen wits to their joint advantage.

Shortly after the end of the Great War, meek Mrs. Hunter, an architect’s wife, is suddenly left a widow with three young children, and who should she turn to but her husband’s business acquaintance, lawyer Mr. Lockwood, for help with her affairs. Mr. Lockwood, fully occupied with feathering his own nest and the care and nurturing of his beloved wife and three daughters, rolls his eyes and sorts things out in a resentful way. While going through the late Mr. Hunter’s papers, Mr. Lockwood comes upon a situation which he can twist to benefit himself to the detriment of the surviving Hunters; he immediately does so, and the stage is set for our emotionally heart-rending story.

Mrs. Hunter insists on being grateful to Mr. Lockwood, and cherishes the benevolent friendship of Mrs. Lockwood, which is – to give Mrs. Lockwood credit – meant well, even if it doesn’t turn out to be truly kind in practice.

because of the lockwoods 1st page dorothy whipple 001

 

The Hunter children grow up under the shadow of the Lockwoods, and as the youngest child, Thea, watches her older sister, Molly, withdrawn from school and forced into an unsuitable post as a governess at the age of fifteen on Mr. Lockwood’s advice (“Your children must start earning,” he sternly informs the compliant Mrs. Hunter), and her older brother, Martin, placed into a bank rather than being allowed to train as a doctor (“Does anybody need a boy?” casually inquires Mr. Lockwood of his banking acquaintances at his club), she sets herself to avoid her siblings’ fate. Thea will not be shunted off into an uncongenial occupation, oh no, not she!

Thea, cleverest of the Hunters by far, sets herself on an upward path, and eventually, at the age of eighteen, manages to make it to France in company with the Lockwood girls; they to be “polished” and to learn French, Thea to teach English at the same school for her keep. But Thea’s ascendant star is about to tumble from the sky, when she is caught in a compromising situation with a handsome young Frenchman, and is sent home in deep disgrace.

Social injustice, deliberate wrongdoing, frustrated hopes, romantic yearnings – what a fruitful set of circumstances for a novelist! Add to that romance and revenge, plus a dash of remorse, and we have an engaging story with which to while away several most diverting hours.

Dorothy Whipple is now very much on my radar, and I will be actively questing for more of her titles. Happily Persephone Press is actively reprinting the Whipple oeuvre, so some at least will be easy to acquire.

What bookish joy, making the acquaintance of Bryher yesterday, Whipple today. And what a happy time I will have exploring more by both of these congenial (though rather different) novelists!

 

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