Vriagoes and PersephonesMy first read for All [publishers reclaiming lost women’s works] / All August and Book 14 in my 20 Books of Summer 2020, I was both sad and happy to read the final Dorothy Whipple that Persphone have published – they’ve now covered all her novels, I’ve got them all, now I’ve read them all, over the years, and all I can do now is re-read them!

Dorothy Whipple – “Young Anne”

(25 December 2018 – from Ali)

It’s not a new story, taking us from a rebellious child chewing a pew in church to a bored young wife tempted by an old flame, but Whipple gives us her customary deep psychological insight and understanding of how extended families, friendships, marriages and classes work, even in her first novel. And as the introduction notes, once you’ve picked up a Dorothy Whipple novel, you just can’t put it down, and this is true of this one, too.

As in “Miss Plum and Miss Penny“, the primary relationship in this novel, first love and husband notwithstanding, is that between a woman and her servant, with her since childhood. The scenes where Emily works her notice and the fear that she will be gone are devastating, as before are her worries about what will happen when Anne marries. Anne starts out as a portrait of a writer, even making her own money from her stories, but this gets lost in her wartime work and her marriage, with a glimmer of hope still holding out. In one of the many clever parallels in the book (please let Anne not become like her older, raddled, dissatisfied cousin!), the dreadful Aunt Orchard is also a writer – of “the ‘beautiful letters’ for which she was famous among friends and relations” (p. 121), shown up in a great scene during a family tragedy.

In another parallel, both Anne and her childhood friend and all-round “good girl” Mildred both “lay up trouble” for themselves by engaging in slightly hasty marriages to men who appear their superiors. I did wonder how on earth they would cope with the 24/7 aspect of lockdown – at least they have some agency and are not literally trapped in their houses. In fact, Anne does quite well with her car and her freedom, and Whipple is not too in love with her character not to have her learn some lessons. Oh – the cat is OK even if it’s put in to start off with to feed a comic one-liner.

An excellent introduction by Lucy Mangan reminds us of how much we love all of Whipple’s oeuvre and also makes a passionate plea for her acceptance and celebration as the excellent writer she is – a great addition to the text. Now, which one shall I re-read first?

This was Book 14 in my 20 Books Of Summer project.