I enjoyed reading all these books. A WWII biography, Dorothy Whipple’s Commentary, very interesting insight into the writer and a mystery set in Sweden.
I got this book from the library, it came all the way from the Oswego Lake Library, doesn’t that conjure up some rather picturesque images in your mind.
Actually one year when Rob was about eight we took a trip up to Canada, past the One Thousand Island in the St. Lawrence River. We camped at a State Park campground on this Lake Oswego, in New York State. It was a very nice campground, with some sites right on a sandy beach by the lake. Quite sort after I’m sure.
High Wages set before and after the WWI Is about a young girl Jane who works in a haberdashery, that’s where people would come and buy all the things they would need and then send to the dress maker to have a costume made up. It gives a full picture into the life of a shop girl in Lancashire then, living on the premises and being over frugally kept by the shop owner.
This was the time when ready made dresses and clothes were just becoming available. Jane sees that this will catch on and dressmakers will be a thing of the past. A kindly benefactress lends her the money to set up a shop of her own.
There are two love interests. The ever faithful Wilfred and Noel, good looking and from the upper class.
Of course the class system of that era was very strong and it comes out in all it’s vagaries in this book.
I did enjoy this book, it gives you a wonderful insight into a shop girls life then, moves along at a good pace and has a satisfactory ending.
Of course you could probably tell by the grey cover and inside frontispiece that this is a Persephone Book. I always love their face cover designs which they choose from the era of the book.
There is a forward by Jane Brockett.
It is set in the town of Elton in the Midlands. This is the story of the Ashton family, Robert and Louisa, the parents in their forties, and their children. Rose and Thomas , who are both married, and do not feature much in the story. Letty is married to Ambrose Harding, they have Dick, a set of twin boys and Rachel, who live close by. Laura who lives at home and is dating and Jim and Charles who live at home, all are young adults.
Robert has aged well and has always been a philanderer. Louise knowing this, but keeping the peace and family together. Loise is the central character around which all the others orbit. Suddenly a big change comes when Robert and his lady friend are thrown out of a trap and he is killed. Ambrose takes over looking after Louise investments, Jim and Thomas decide that Jim will take over and run the family business, a wood yard and Charles, who all the brothers feel is a waster, but is most beloved of Louise, has been persuaded to try his chances in South Africa.
Jim who is very much influenced by his fiance, eventually leaves home and marries her, much to his mother’s relief, he always found fault with everything. At this time with the loss of Charles, Louisa decides to ask a lady Kate Barlow to come and live with her. Kate was befriended by Louise many years ago when she was just coming out, unfortunately she fell in love with Philip Symonds a married man and become pregnant with a boy, who she gave up for adoption. Kate left town and has been living as a companion, so Louise decides that maybe she can show her kindness by inviting Kate to live with her. Kate proves to be a prickly, frozen individual, so it does not turn out as Louise would have wished.
Laura has been dating Cecil Bradfield and taking little Rachel along as a chaperon, it seems they are quite in love. Laura though who has always been prone to be selfish and prideful, has a tiff with Cyril; which leads to a separation, that is not repaired. So in a silly mood of pettishness she decides to visit her sister Rose down south and meets George, a rather over weight but rich man and she marries him. Letty visits with Laura and basks in all the things money can buy as Ambrose is a penny pincher.
In reference to being married Laura says to Letty, “Oh, Letty said Laura, wiping her eyes. “You’ve got it boiled down to that, have you?” Letty still looked blank. “What’s the matter?” she said. “Nothing …..nothing! Have some more keep – I mean cake. Let’s plaster our souls with chocolate cake, darling. It will perhaps hold them together as well as anything else …”
Rachel is a comfort to her grandmother, and is growing up..Ambrose feels that “He looked forward with pleasure to forming Rachel according to his influence.”
Letty visits her aunt Alice regularly, hoping that some day she will inherit, and have some money of her own. “It’s not really me, having the children and living with Ambrose,’ she would think in bewilderment. ‘This isn’t my life really; it will all be different soon. I shall begin to live as I want to soon.”
Charles who although set up quite well by his family money wise, decides to come back from South Africa, as he has a billiard room invention he wants to work on. His mother hears him playing the piano as she walks up the street home, she knows it’s Charles and is delighted. The Invention does not pan out and his brothers ever glad to get rid of him find a job in the Far East for him. He isn’t there too long when WWI breaks out and he comes home again, only to join up, the others being far to busy making money off the war to join up.
War brings changes in Elton. “The spoon of war stirred the contents of the provincial pan very thoroughly and Mrs. Spence called at Greenbanks one Saturday afternoon to ask Kate Barlow to join the Bandage Class.” Ambrose with his solid good looks and southern diction, that fell pleasantly on Lancashire ears, helps in a figurehead position with the War Relief , Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association. “I don’t care what you do it for,’ said the woman. ‘But I’d like to know what yer mean by being late with my money, ‘And it over. I’m waiting to go out.’ ‘Savages.’ muttered Ambrose …. I love this comparison.
By the gate, under the laurel bushes there were snowdrops like little congregations of White Nuns at prayer….’ It is March and news is received at Greenbanks that Charles has been killed in action. Laura comes home for the funeral, bumps into Cecil on leave and all is reconciled between them, leaving George out in the cold. Laura in her usual way leaves it to her mother to break the news to George. As she takes off with Cecil to seize happiness. He goes back to the front and she becomes a nurse and gets assigned to France.
Time moves on, the war ends. Cecil and Laura move to Kenya to live. ‘But in spite of the fact that she did not come home, it got about that she had gone away with Cecil Bradfield. There was not the sensation in Elton that there would once have been. The war had blown most peoples ideas sky-high, and the pieces had not yet come down. When they did come down they would never fit together again as they had before the war.’
Rachel is now seventeen. She has passed all her exams with flying colours and has been offered a scholarship to Oxford. Her father will not think of letting her go, to be a blue stocking. It’s interesting he says that asVera Britain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testament_of_Youth in her autobiography writes that her father said the same thing. Girls of that time were just not expected to go to college, just marry well. Rachel does not hold back in telling her father a few home truths, about how he has always spoiled everything through out their lives and that is why all the boys left, Dick to work with his uncle in the engineering firm and the twins to South Africa.
Rachel mopes around for a year and even her father has to admit, that maybe he made the wrong choice, and allows her to attend Liverpool University three days a week. Laura writes, can her mother intercede with George as she is expecting a baby and she must have a divorce.
Again Laura leaves it to others to sort things out for her. Letty and Louise go to visit George and this time he is only to happy to comply, maybe he’ll be landed with a wife and baby this would upset him and his finances.
Who turns up one day at Greenbanks, John Barlow, Kate’s son and guess who he falls in love with? Letty’s aunt dies, will she stay with Ambrose?
Well of course I have sketched out the bare bones and one must read the book to feel the ambiance of Dorothy Whipple’s writing. Now should I move on to the Lockwood’s or take it back to the library and save it for another time.
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.”
Someone at a distance set after WWII, is based around a wealthy, upper class family, the North’s. Mr North, is a co-owner of a publishing house in London, and goes up every day on the train. Ellen his wife is a stay at home mum, but is very busy with a big house, and looking after all the household duties. As this is post WWII and domestic staff, willing to live in the country are hard to find. Their eldest son, Hugh, who is doing his national service time and their daughter is away at boarding school.
What falls into all this British country idealism, Ms Louise Lanier, a young French woman who is socially conscious of her working class position, in her small town. She had for a long time secretly dated Paul, the son of a wealthy town family, but he had jilted her for the socially acceptable Germaine, right family, right class.
Mrs North senior answers an add in the paper for a companion. Feeling left out and not payed enough attention to, even though she has her lovely own house and a companion servant, plus the family do visit here, she feels slighted.
So begins the circle of events that spiral down to the breaking up the the North’s happy family. Very near the beginning you know this will happen. It is the character studies that carry this story through. I was able to jump to the end and read it, which usually would totally ruin a book but not this one. You just want to read what they think, why they act the way they do, and Dorothy Whipple is a master character builder.
A few quotes of the many I enjoyed.
Ellen says of Louise, “When you don’t mind how rude you are, you have every advantage.”
Speaking of old Mrs North and Louise’s relationship together, Ms. Whipple writes ‘They were very pleased with each other.’
Louise’s parents looking at a photograph of the North’s said ‘She has a sweet face,” said Madame Lanier. ‘What a very nice family. They all look so happy.’
Louise’s thoughts, ‘For a long time, she had been looking on at money without having any herself. It was too bad. The lack of it had ruined her life. If she had, had money, Paul wouldn’t have left her for Germaine Brouet.’
In reference to Avery, ‘She always had to listen carefully, ….. he barely moved his lips when he spoke. It gave her the air of hanging on his words, which he thought very attractive in her.’
Louise looking in the mirror, after having married Avery. ‘She always gave as much pleasure to her own eyes as others. More, in fact, because she alone knew what perfect finish she had achieved.’
Mrs Brokington an elderly close friend of Ellen’s. ‘They were silent during Ellen’s tale, the old woman saw or thought she saw that it was the child, Anne, who was keeping her parents apart. But she said nothing. It was too late the divorce had happened. She wouldn’t throw Ellen into worse agitation and confusion by saying that Avery might not have wanted it at all.’
Well I could go on and on quoting passages from the book.
It’s hard from our 2009 viewpoint to understand the class system of the time period. But I can say of my own experience as a child in the 60’s it was strong. I’ll give you an example.
Of a baby boomer class of 40 children strong, only one child passed her eleven plus examination to go to the prestigious High School, every one else was denigrated to the secondary modern school. This was so based on the class you came from, what your parents did for a living.
After five parents kicked up a rumpus, saying it was impossible for all the other 39 children to have failed, they got their children into the Grammar School, not even the High School. Class distinction at it’s worst.
To be quite honest the curriculum at the secondary school was very good, but it was the stigma, you just cannot know how that felt to work so hard as an eleven year old, know you truly were good enough and not make it. Not to wear that uniform.
So I can just a little have empathy for Louise Lanier.
Persephone Books reprints forgotten twentieth century novels, short stories, cookery books and memoirs, by mostly women writers. It is their 10th Anniversary this year. Someone at a Distance was among the first group of books offered.