Because of the Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple

Well, after all the excitement of my recent news (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look here), I’m going to calm things down by taking you into the cosy, relaxed world of Dorothy Whipple. Much like Jane Austen, Dorothy is an excellent balm for a troubled soul, and I picked up Because of the Lockwoods, sent to me by the same lovely reader who sent me The Last Station, last week when I was particularly anxious about my New York plans and also was off work with a nasty cold. Curled up on the sofa, feeling sorry for myself, I was rapidly gripped by the world that opened up before me, and helplessly emotionally involved with the characters Whipple had created. Because of the Lockwoods, sadly out of print, is remarkably good, and easily on a par with, if not better than, the four Whipple novels Persephone have reprinted. I could hardly bear to put it down, and it left me in awe of just how well Dorothy Whipple manages to weave a canvas of human life so vivid, so realistic, so unbearably, brilliantly, alive. This is a book not to be missed.

It tells the story of the Hunters and the Lockwoods, neighbours in a Northern, provincial mill town, whose lives take very different paths after the early death of Richard Hunter. Originally on the same par financially, and with children of the same age, after Richard suddenly dies with hardly any money saved, Mrs Hunter and her children are reduced to much humbler circumstances (the Hunters can’t even afford a maid – you know it must be bad when that happens!), and the families’ friendship changes from one of equality to one of patron and patronised. As a favour to her friend, Mrs Lockwood asks her husband, a solicitor, to deal with Mrs Hunter’s papers after her husband’s death. Ineffectual and helpless without her husband, to whom she deferred to in everything, Mrs Hunter is immensely grateful for the rather selfish Mr Lockwood’s grudgingly given advice, and accepts everything he suggests without question. Unbeknownst to her, Mr Lockwood takes advantage of her ignorance, and pretends that her husband never paid him back a loan he borrowed shortly before his death. As a result, he defrauds Mrs Hunter out of a good deal of money, and his way of atoning is by continuing to reluctantly and inadequately advise her on monetary matters as the years go by.

Mrs Lockwood continues her ‘friendship’ with Mrs Hunter despite her fall in social position, and patronisingly invites her to her large, comfortable home regularly to boast of her wealth and generosity, gives her presents of used clothing, and generally enjoys using her as a vessel to brag about her life and make her feel that she is a wonderfully kind person. Mrs Hunter, in her gentle hearted good natured way, feels grateful and honoured by Mrs Lockwood’s patronage, but her youngest daughter, Thea, develops an intense resentment for the family that she feels downtrodden and bullied by. The Lockwood’s twin daughters, Muriel and Bee, bully Thea and let her know just how insignificant and poor she is. Thea is jealous of the girls’ nice clothes and comfortable lifestyle, while the Hunters have nothing and have to scrimp and save for everything they can get. To make matters worse, Mr Lockwood, who controls the family finances, forces both Martin and Molly, Thea’s older siblings, to finish school early and take jobs they hate, because he can’t be bothered to help Mrs Hunter work out her finances to get them the jobs they really want. Thea lives in fear that she too will be forced to leave school early, and she determines that she won’t have her life ruled over by the patronising and snobbish Lockwoods.

Thea decides that she wants to go to France after she finishes school, but so do the Lockwood girls, and Mrs Lockwood is incensed at the idea that Thea should be allowed to go too. The Lockwoods are adamant that the Hunters should remember their inferior place at all times, and the thought that any Hunter should have the same advantage of one of their own precious children is anathema to them. However, Thea is a determined, ambitious, and proud girl, and she pushes for the new start she is desperate for. Thea’s courage and hard work pay off, and she soon finds herself in France, though unlike the Lockwood girls, she has to work for her keep. French life agrees with Thea enormously, and she blossoms, but a romance is misunderstood, and before she knows it, she has been shipped back home with a broken heart and an unjustly sullied reputation. However, an unexpected find in the bottom of her father’s old bag and a hand of kindness extended by a neighbour soon change the balance of power between the two opposing families, and the Lockwoods are finally forced to realise that wealth and status are as easily lost as gained, and true worth lies not in how well others think of you, but of how well you think of others.

This book made me so angry in places I wanted to leap in and smack the Lockwoods for their nastiness, pride and despicable treatment of the Hunters. Mrs Lockwood’s odious attitude of patronising ‘generosity’ and belief that the Hunters should be grateful for whatever they are given disgusted me, and the fact that Mrs Lockwood and Mrs Hunter never called each other by their first names demonstrated how shallow their relationship was. Mrs Lockwood is friends with Mrs Hunter merely to make her feel better about herself, and the kind and gentle Mrs Hunter indulges Mrs Lockwood’s vanity by being pitiably grateful for any crumbs of aid she can get. Mrs Hunter’s bewilderment at being poor and losing her status is terribly sad, but I also wanted to shake her and say ‘get a backbone, woman!’. Her ineffectual, vague nature infuriated me at times, and provided a perfect case study for why women should never allow themselves to become dependent on their husbands for everything. It made me quite upset to think of the thousands of women like this in the early 20th century, who were left helpless and unable to support themselves when their male protectors had died. Thank goodness for feminism!

Thea was a magnificent character, and her strong will, courage and pride were marvellous to behold. She makes plenty of mistakes, but her heart is in the right place, and her determination to not let her family’s social status prevent her from living the life she wanted was a real inspiration. There is much more in this novel I could describe, but I don’t want to give it all away. All I can say is that this is another masterpiece from the pen of Dorothy Whipple, and I urge you all to read it; it is a wide and dramatic canvas that provides a stark warning to those who value status and material things over all else, and cannot see beyond a person’s circumstances to the value of the heart within. Because of the Lockwoods is absolutely fantastic, and fingers crossed that it will be reprinted soon. For some reason, it seems to be far more readily available second hand in the US than in the UK; I have seen several copies available cheaply, so do take advantage of that if you can – you won’t be disappointed, I promise! Below is a photo of the beautiful endpapers; worth buying the book for alone I think!

Every Good Deed by Dorothy Whipple

My love of Dorothy Whipple just keeps on growing with everything of hers I read. When I bought this slender volume for a song from ebay last year, I was initially disappointed when it arrived on my doormat. I say slender; really, I mean miniscule. At barely over 100 War Economy Standard wafer thin pages, this isn’t enough Whipple for my liking. Published in 1946, this book was her penultimate adult novel (Someone at a Distance was her last), and this shows in its finely honed style. Compared to her longer novels it lacks none of their meat, excellent characterisation or emotional engagement; despite its brevity, it expertly weaves a world so engrossing I didn’t want to leave it behind when I closed the pages.

Every Good Deed centres around the world of the gentle Miss Tophams. Emily and Susan are middle aged spinster sisters, perfectly content with their lot in life. They live in their tranquil, picturesque childhood home, The Willows, and have every comfort thanks to their late father’s careful provision for them. They live with the devoted Cook, who is more of a friend than a servant, and have very little, like Emma Woodhouse, to distress or vex them. Emily, the more outgoing of the sisters, busies herself with Committees and philanthropic works in the local town, while Susan, more shy and retiring, manages their home alongside Cook. Both ladies are absolutely delightful characters; kind, well meaning, gentle and loving, they encourage and support one another and see the best in everyone. Cook tries to look out for them, as she fears them being ill used, but the Miss Tophams refuse to believe that anyone could have a malicious bone in their body. This trusting nature will prove to be their downfall, as their quiet, pleasant life at The Willows is about to be overturned by the ‘Good Deed’ of the title.

As the book opens, Emily has just been elected Chairman of the Committee for the local Children’s Home. Filled with good intention and love for the little children in her care, Emily is keen to visit as often as possible and ease the burden of the nice but ineffectual Matron. On one of her visits, a local family of children has just been readmitted because their mother has run off again, and the eldest of these children, Gwen, is a horrid wild thing that none of the nurses in the Home can stand. Emily takes pity on the scheming girl, and later that night, after she has made a scene at the Home and Matron telephones for Emily’s help, Emily offers to bring her back to The Willows for the night.

Circumstances then spiral out of control, and Gwen never ends up going home. Their lives are turned upside down; Cook is forced to leave, Gwen steals and behaves badly, throwing everything Emily and Susan offer her back in their faces, and leaves the two good natured ladies heartbroken and their home a place of conflict and unrest. Gwen is a crushing burden for them to carry, an ever present worry, and a monster in their own home. Their love does not soften her wayward, uncaring heart, and she is determined to cause havoc and hurt the two women who have sacrificed everything they have for her. As she gets older, her behaviour only gets worse. The Miss Tophams, unable, or perhaps unwilling, to see her for who she truly is, only have their eyes opened to her true character when she finally runs away. A brief period of respite ensues, when their home becomes their own again, but it isn’t long before Gwen turns up at their front door, with a nasty surprise that will change all of their lives forever…

It’s the usual Whipple fare; a moral tale of a lovely home life of good people destroyed by a wicked outsider, but despite the familiar subject and message of goodness and redemption, it is not a hackneyed or saccharine story in any way. There are plenty of twists and turns, dramatic events, wonderful scenes and marvellous characters to delight, infuriate, and root for. The Miss Tophams are truly magnificent women, whose good, loving hearts do not falter or become cynical in the face of repeated evils done to them. Cook is also wonderful, as the strong, loving tie that binds the family together, and the voice of reason cutting against the rose tinted view of her employers. Despite her awfulness, the perfectly odious Gwen comes alive on the page, and my fury at her behaviour can only be a product of Whipple’s skill in drawing such realistic, rounded characters. Her horridness is a precursor to the nasty Louise in Someone at a Distance.

I absolutely loved this novel, short as it was; it is at once terrifying, in showing the havoc that can be wrought on a life by letting in a malevolent outside force, and uplifting, in showing the essential goodness of the human heart, and how love can heal all wounds. My heart was breaking and rejoicing at intervals throughout, and my only criticism would be that I wish it were longer. If you can get hold of this, it is a beautiful read. Sadly it is still out of print, but I have heard rumours that Persephone will be reprinting the entirety of Whipple’s oeuvre in due course, so do not despair! Speaking of entire oeuvres, since I yesterday received a beautiful American edition of Because of the Lockwoods from a lovely reader of my blog, I am now in possession of all of Dorothy’s novels apart from Greenbanks, which I have read but don’t own. I only have two more to read before I’ve read them all…but can I bear to have no Whipples left?

They Knew Mr Knight by Dorothy Whipple…and giveaway winners!

Everyone knows that I love Dorothy Whipple. I wish she was still alive so that she could write more books and I could meet her in person and tell her how wonderful I think she is. But sadly she is not, and I am swiftly running out of new books of hers to read. I don’t want to ever lose the sense of excitement I get when I pick up a new novel of hers, so I am rationing myself. That’s also why I have never read my volume of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan and The Watsons…I can’t bear to have read everything and never be surprised and delighted by new characters again.

But I digress. I chose They Knew Mr Knight for the V&A’s Staff Book Group’s January read. Many of the group members had never heard of Persephone books and none had heard of Dorothy Whipple (apart from Bloomsbury Bell, of course). As Winston Churchill said, With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility; very wise, I think, and applicable to my situation; with the power of choosing what other people are reading, comes the responsibility of ensuring it is something people will enjoy reading, or at least enjoy discussing. Therefore I began reading with anticipation, but also slight worry, in case They Knew Mr Knight wasn’t as good as her previous books, and all of the Book Group rounded on me with angry stares and shaking fists because I made them waste a week of their reading lives on a book they thought was awful. I needn’t have worried, because Dorothy has well and truly delivered the goods, yet again, with this wonderful novel.

They Knew Mr Knight opens on the peaceful world of Celia and Thomas Blake, who live in a northern manufacturing town with their three teenage children. Thomas is a kind, quiet man; he takes pride in providing for his family and has dreams of becoming prosperous enough to give them all the things they dream of, like holidays and a car. Celia is gentle, loving, and delights in the simple things of life. She cares for her children and husband deeply, and always tries to do kindnesses to others.The family have a fairly comfortable lifestyle, but as with all of us, money is frequently tight, especially as Thomas is responsible for looking after his elderly mother, spinster sister, unwisely married sister, and feckless brother on top of his wife and children. Thomas works at Blake’s, an ironworks that used to belong to his father and grandfather, but was sold off when he was 17 to pay his father’s debts. This is something that has long bothered Thomas; he hates to work as a mere employee, when in his mind, he should be the owner of the works. When he is given the opportunity to buy the works, he starts thinking of ways in which he can cobble together the money to do so. As luck would have it, Thomas makes a chance encounter with a local billionaire (in our modern money) financier, Mr Knight. Thomas saves him from slipping down the stairs at the station one morning, and he is then invited to take the train with him up to town. During this journey the two strike up a friendship, and it isn’t long before Mr Knight has come up with a scheme to provide Thomas with the money to buy the works.

Now the owner of Blake’s, Thomas is finding his financial situation a lot easier. And Mr Knight has taken him under his wing, passing more and more opportunities for Thomas to make easy money in various schemes. Celia is uneasy with Thomas’ ways of making money, but she loves him, and trusts him, and so the family soon begin to bask in the comfort of having more money than they could ever have imagined. Thomas loves being able to provide all of the material things he wanted to give his family, and no matter how much money he is making, he is always thinking of more he could gain. Celia enjoys being able to treat herself without worrying, and do simple things like have fancier evening meals. Before they know it, they have moved to a new, bigger house, and they are part of the town’s highest society. Mr Knight’s wife, Maudie, is a frequent visitor, and she takes a special interest in the Blake’s eldest daughter, Freda, bringing her along to society parties and encouraging her to mix with wealthy and titled people her age. The pinnacle comes when Mr Knight decides to leave town, and he invites Thomas to buy his beautiful house, Field Place, that Celia has coveted ever since she first cast her eyes on it. From the outside, their lives could not be more perfect.

But, throughout all of this upward mobilisation, the heart of the family seems to have shifted. Thomas’ attention is no longer directed towards Celia and their children; it is focussed only on the stock market and the next step up the ladder of prosperity. The children have all had their heads turned and their hearts destroyed in some way by the trappings of wealth. Celia, despite being surrounded by all the material wealth she has ever desired, and the house of her dreams, is desperately unhappy, bored and fearful that the man she fell in love with has gone from her forever. The endless, grasping pursuit of wealth and position has brought the family nothing but unhappiness and heartache, and when the sand they have built their new lives upon starts to shift beneath them, they realise just how far removed they have become from the people they once were.

They Knew Mr Knight is, in short, terrific. There is an undercurrent of menace the whole way through, as Thomas’ financial speculations become riskier and riskier; it is clear that at some point, the bubble has got to burst. This tension kept me on the edge of my seat, and I was desperately worried for the family, knowing that something awful had to be coming. It is powerful in showing how much value people put on material things, without realising the truly important treasures in life. Celia’s deep unhappiness as she becomes richer demonstrates how the soul needs love, friendship, laughter and security to flourish; these are all the gifts Celia had before Thomas even met Mr Knight, but it took her nearly losing them all to realise just how much they meant to her. By the end, the family have been broken, but they are beginning the process of being put back together again; they have learnt that money is not the answer to their problems, and that only in loving and supporting one another can they grow to achieve their potential and true happiness. This message is illustrated by the journey of Edward, Thomas’s pain of a younger brother, as he goes from being a depressed, aimless waste of space at the beginning of the novel to a devoted husband and father and a prosperous businessman by the end; all it took for him to become fulfilled and successful was feeling valued and loved for the first time, when he met the woman who would become his wife. Whipple makes it clear that the security of a loving family is all that is important in life, and the unhappiness and superficiality in the lives of the rich characters only serves to highlight this even more.

This is just the sort of novel I adore; it is about ordinary life, and nothing particularly exciting happens, but in its simplicity of plot, there is a characterisation that is second to none, and a profundity and beauty in its descriptions of the human soul that I have rarely found elsewhere. I can’t recommend it highly enough; Dorothy Whipple really saw people, and she had the tremendous gift of being able to transfer what she saw into the written word. Read as much of her as you can; she will inspire you to take joy in the simple, beautiful things of life, and that is why I always close her books feeling a happier and more hopeful person.

FINALLY, the winners of the Richard Yates giveaway, generated from a random number generator, are as follows:

Disturbing the Peace: Claire of Kiss a Cloud
Revolutionary Road: Miss M who posted as Anonymous

Congratulations! Please email me to let me know your addresses and I’ll send them off to you as soon as I can!

Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple

One of the reasons why blogging is so amazing is that it connects you with people who share your interests, and who you most probably would never have otherwise met. The internet is considered by some to be a force of evil, encouraging us to stop communicating through normal channels and waste endless amounts of time looking up trivia on Wikipedia, but in my opinion, it is a wonderful resource to enable people from all over the world to enter into discussions that no one in their real life acquaintance can have with them. My friends are wonderfully indulgent of my book loving habits and they do listen to my witterings about Persephone and Virago and Dorothy Whipple and Wilkie Collins etc but none of them particularly wants to sit down and chat books for hours on end; therefore, my blog and the people I have met through it give me a much treasured outlet for all things book related. I can get ideas, inspiration, recommendations and real joy from reading other people’s blogs, and from the comments and emails people are so kind to write to me too, so, to everyone who reads, comments, emails or writes a blog that I enjoy, thank you for providing me with such a fun way to spend my idle hours! It is much appreciated, and nothing beats the little buzz of delight I get when I see that someone has left a comment on my posts. It’s lovely to know that people are interested in what I have to say!

Well now, what does all this preamble have to do with Greenbanks and Dorothy Whipple, I hear you cry? Well, I got a lovely email from a lady called Sandra a while ago, and she is a fellow Dorothy Whipple fan who had read my post on Young Anne and was interested in borrowing it. In return she said she would lend me a copy of Greenbanks, as it is ridiculously expensive to buy and I hadn’t read it yet. So we happily swapped books and I have now had the pleasure of reading this wonderful novel, which I read whilst away in lovely Arundel for the weekend.

Dorothy Whipple is at the centre of what is, for me, one of life’s greatest mysteries. How someone who wrote so brilliantly, with such perception, with such insight, with such feeling, with such sympathy, and with such truth, has fallen so completely by the wayside, I simply cannot fathom. She was immensely popular in her day; her books were Book Society Choices (incidentally, if there were so many produced, why are they now so hard to get hold of?!), and two were made into films. She would have been, I imagine, the ‘housewife’s choice’, books women juggling the tasks of being the perfect wife, mother and housekeeper would have enjoyed borrowing from Boots’ circulating library and reading during stolen moments when the children were at school and the dusting had been done, revelling in the stories of ordinary lives, nodding with enthusiasm and understanding at the descriptions of the fear, desperation, contradiction, disappointment, love, hope, dreams, and joys that make up suburban life. She is realistic about the often thankless task of having children; of the disappointment many of us face when our real lives don’t live up to the dreams we had; of the pain of marriages that are held together by habit rather than love, peppered with bitterness and resentment. She is also marvellous at showing the rays of light, the moments of ecstasy, the passions and dreams and delights that life holds, making the world such a wonderful place to be. And these aren’t sensational; they are not about having lots of money or being carried off to a desert island by a handsome knight in shining armour. They are as simple as watching children playing in a garden, of curling up by the fire with a good book and a cup of tea, of falling in love unexpectedly, of crunching amongst autumn leaves, of letting a snowflake melt on your tongue. Dorothy Whipple doesn’t do melodrama, or fantasy; she deals in reality, in mundanity, and in the enduringly beautiful quality of the indomitable human spirit. No matter what life throws at her characters, they manage to still find the strength to face the day ahead. What could be a greater inspiration than that?

Greenbanks is about the extended Ashton clan; Louisa, the head of the family, much loved, but also much taken for granted, is the focus of events. She has five children and a plethora of grandchildren, as well as an embarrassingly adulterous husband who she can’t help but love anyway. Her life is centred around the warm, cosy family home, Greenbanks, and Louisa’s loving heart seeks to do good and care for the demands of her now grown children and her grandchildren, especially her granddaughter Rachel. Each of her children has very different personalities, and she struggles to understand them; she can only really fully relate to her son Charles, the one she loves best, but who is the least promising. As life goes on and her children choose partners and have their own children and make mistakes and leave her behind, Louisa has to learn how to cope with loss, and grief, and the emotional demands of children she will always love, but has to let go and allow to live their own lives. She clings on to little Rachel as a way to keep having someone to care for and to anchor her, and in this new generation Louisa finds the hope and purpose she feels is starting to slip from her grasp.

Not a huge amount happens; this is a quiet family saga, full of the private emotions, events and battles that go on in all of our lives. But even so, this is a profoundly beautiful novel that celebrates the generosity of parental love, that explores the pain and grief of thwarted dreams and disappointments, and that demonstrates the power of the human spirit to overcome, to love, to hope, even when there seems to be no reason to. I adored it, and I hope that it will be republished soon, as I think this may be my favourite Whipple yet. I wish I had my own copy, because this may have just entered the top ten list…

Dorothy, London, and a very good Brownie

I am currently lying on the sofa feeling excessively exhausted after a long day in London. I stayed at my friend Emma’s in Hackney last night, and we went to a wonderful independent cinema called the Rio in trendy Dalston to watch Penelope Cruz’s new film Broken Embraces. It was interesting and absorbing and very funny in places; if you don’t mind reading subtitles do go and see it.

Today we decided to go to St Paul’s as neither of us had ever been, and it was, while a bit overpriced (£11!!), an absolute delight. Stunning workmanship all round, with the most terrific mosaics on the ceilings and imposing marble sculptures on the monuments to long forgotten dead soldiers. We went up to the Whispering Gallery which was nearly 300 steps and my poor calves are certainly feeling it now, but it was well worth it for the view down into the cathedral floor; it was just magnificent. And it’s true that you can hear a whisper travelling round the walls – I don’t know how it works but it does, and Emma and I had far too much fun than 23 year olds should have whispering our names to each other across the dome! Then we went even further up to the outside observatory which has beautiful panoramic views across London. It’s such a higgledy-piggledy city from the sky, with old buildings jostling for space with huge new glass skyscrapers that are appearing as if from nowhere all over the place, but it has a beauty all of its own and I felt quite proud of my majestic city when I was up there, looking down over it.

After St Paul’s we went to see the ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars, which was bombed in the Blitz. Now only bits of the external walls, the tower and the empty windows remain, and it really is incredible to see this relic of wartime London nestling amongst modern office buildings. It was quite moving to stand there and look at the blank windows and think of the terror that must have been felt by ordinary Londoners as they watched their homes and buildings they loved destroyed in seconds around them by bombs that fell indiscriminantly from the sky.

After this and a spot of lunch we went to the Courtauld and saw the wonderful Beyond Bloomsbury exhibition, all about the Omega workshops. They had some gorgeous textiles on display, and I spotted a couple of Persephone endpapers – those for The Wise Virgins and William – An Englishman. The creativity and daring of these artists, among them Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, was really quite breathtaking, considering they were working in a pre war England that was still very Victorian in its design tastes. The fluid lines, geometric patterns, bright colours and plenty of nubile female forms were really so beautiful, and I wished I could bring some of the fabrics home with me. Of course at the time the Omega Workshop was very expensive to buy from – the accompanying leaflet notes that a small rug would have set its owner back £600, which would have put their products out of most people’s price ranges. This illustrates the contradiction in the Bloomsbury Group’s values, I suppose; they wanted to break away from the world of their wealthy, class conscious, Victorian parents, and enjoyed living in almost socialist communes, but they still could not do without maids and their work was not accessible to the lower orders of society; their novels and art might have been groundbreaking, but they were also designed for an implied audience of an educated, privileged, wealthy and cultured elite. Since reading Alison Light’s excellent Mrs Woolf and the Servants, I have seen the Bloomsbury Group in a new light; their snobbery towards those less educated and wealthy as themselves has made me look at their work in a new way. They might have wanted to shake things up a bit, but their desire for change and reform was never, it seems to me anyway, designed to help anyone else but themselves have more fulfilling and, certainly in many of the group’s member’s cases, more sexually free lives.

After the Courtauld I was inspired by Claire’s post about being invited for tea at Bea’s of Bloomsbury by Nicola Beauman to go to there myself for tea and cake, and so Emma and I trotted off down Kingsway to get ourselves something tasty. I had a chai latte and a delicious brownie, and Emma had tea and a strawberry vanilla cupcake, which was equally scrumptious. It is highly recommended, though if you go do reserve a seat first – we were ousted onto the pavement as there were no tables!

And, as we ended up very near to the Persephone shop (though we didn’t go to it today), now is the perfect time to make the seamless transition into a book review. For Persephone Reading Week, which is now literally last week’s news, I read Dorothy Whipple’s The Closed Door and Other Stories, and my goodness, was it a marvellous read. I knew I would love these stories as Dorothy can do no wrong in my eyes, and I actually want to be Dorothy Whipple (but an alive version) whenever I read one of her novels, because I want to be able to write in such a wry, well observed, compassionate and engrossing way myself. I simply can’t believe that her books have been left to languish out of print and forgotten for so long. It is sacrilege. But anyway, back to the stories. Each one is a magnificent, perfectly constructed gem. A couple are fairly long, about sixty pages, but the others are only a few pages each, yet within those pages, a whole world is unfolded before you. They are each about family relationships and most of them featured a suffocated child living with selfish parents, trapped within the walls of home and desperate to get out. Another, Wednesday, was about a woman separated from her children through divorce and the pain she feels at only getting to see them on a Wednesday, and the distance growing between her and the children who seem to care a little less each time that she is no longer a part of their everyday lives. The Closed Door, the opening story, was probably my favourite, but they are all so remarkably powerful and touching stories of the suffering ordinary human beings can cause others through their selfishness that I had to just sit back after reading some of them and goodness…this woman is a genius. It is easy for some to cast her off as a woman writing about mundane everyday things, but while she does write about the everday she also writes about the everyman; the secret selfish thoughts we all have, our desires, our despairs, our capacity to love deeply and selflessly when the spirit moves us…she saw people, the good and the bad, did Dorothy Whipple, and she wrote about life in a way that makes the ordinary extraordinary, and that is why I love her so. I am on tenterhooks waiting for Persephone to print High Wages…it can’t be long to wait now!

Photo accompanying is of my copy ofThe Closed Door and Other Stories, as well as a leaflet and postcard from the Bloomsbury exhibition.

*The photos of London are not mine – I forgot my camera today so they are substitutes from online. Just thought I should make that clear!