Is set on the cusp of WWII. The Priory around which the story revolves is the stately home of Major Marwood and has been in the family for generations, along with surrounding farms and farmland, which are gradually being sold off to keep the Major happy in his expensive hobby of cricket.
His daughters Christine and Penelope are entering into womanhood, still occupy the upstairs nursery, having the whole floor to themselves and liking it that way; their mother died when they were young, and they’ve pretty much been left to their own devices.
Into this comes Major Marwood’s idea, that he maybe should remarry, someone who will take over the household and possibly guide his girls. So with the least effort he proposes to Anthea. Isn’t he shocked when Anthea declares that she is pregnant with twins. But in his usual style he carries on with arranging for the annual summer cricket tournament. Aided by his trusted retainer, Thompson.
Anthea decides she needs a nurse and implores Nurse Pym, to aid her through the pregnancy. They become so attached that this becomes a permanent arrangement.
Thompson, who is a bit of a lad, but most handsome, and good at heart has got himself entangled with Bertha, who on seeing that she is about to be ditched for the young housemaid Bessy, who he really is in love with, says she’s pregnant and he had best do the right thing by her; which he does. Only to find out it was a lie.
Bessy wants to leave but Anthea with the pregnancy wants her to stay and persuades her to do so. “In the end, she persuaded Bessy to stay. She meant to be kind.”
The Major has invited an excellent player to join his team for the summer, Nicholas Ashwell, who comes from a wealthy industrial family, his father is Sir James a little blustery, and his mother Sarah, good people.
Christine and Nicholas fall in love and marry, but not all is rosy as young Mr. Ashwell, has never found his own path and made is own way in life. They have a child, a little girl, Angela. After things revealed Christine leaves him, taking Angela, and goes to live with her sister, who has also married, but not for love, to the ever faithful Paul.
What transpires to both of them in the mean time, makes them grow up and see things so much more clearly.
Saunby Priory is to be put up for sale. Christine is the one who truly loves the house. Sir James is the means by which all is fulfilled and brought to a happy conclusion for all.
In ‘Somewhere at a Distance’ money is the ruination of the family. In ‘The Priory’, money makes all things possible, an interesting contrast.
I found the beginning a tad slow and it took me a while to become in tune with the characters. By the time I got to the end I was enthralled by her wonderful fleshing out of characters.
This book was written and published in 1939, it brings out how the people of Britain and indeed Europe, were so hopeful that the Prime Minister would bring about peace with Hitler and Mussolini, and for a moment they were ecstatic in thinking that it had been achieved. Dorothy Whipple writes.
“Life had been given back to them and they were delirious with the gift. The immense wave of hope and goodwill that was sweeping over the world engulfed Red Lodge too. This was the time when miracles could have been accomplished, when if they could have come at each other, the peoples of Europe would have fallen on one another’s necks like brothers and wrung one anothers hands with promises of peace.”