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Dorothy Whipple

Persephone Books republish books by authors that they think have been unfairly neglected. Usually novels and mostly by women. One of their most popular authors is Dorothy Whipple (1893-1966), and I've just finished her BECAUSE OF THE LOCKWOODS (1949). Dorothy Whipple has sometimes been denied the rank of first-rate because she's been declared 'too readable'. What a strange reason. Surely it's every novelists desire to be readable, to write a page-turner. And BECAUSE OF THE LOCKWOODS is certainly that. I read eagerly wanting to know what happened next. It's the story of two interlinked families in a Northern provincial town. (Blackburn? DW's birthplace). The Lockwoods are well-to-do, and the Hunters have fallen on hard times. The Lockwoods, unwillingly and patronisingly, take it upon themselves to look after the Hunters. There is snobbishness on one side, and painful resentment but acquiescence on the other. The story is focussed on Thea Hunter, a spirited girl, and her awkward relationship with the Lockwood girls, and her growing love for Oliver Reade, a working-class boy with ambition whom she begins by despising. The middle part of the novel concerns Thea's time as an assistant in a French school, her friendship with a French young man and the ensuing scandal when their friendship is discovered. Whipple's story is beautifully told in admirably unfussy prose. The characters are vividly drawn, and the whole novel is alive and energetic. All right, she isn't George Eliot, but who is? I'd recommend this book to anyone who's looking for an undemanding yet rewarding read.  It would be an ideal book club choice. I've read two other Whipple novels: 'They Were Sisters' and 'High Wages'.  Persephone editions in their uniform dove-grey covers are a pleasure to handle.

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