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Three Dorothies

Skimming through my extensive to-read lists, I notice that there an awful lot of books by authors named Dorothy.  I thought that I would profile a couple of the lesser-known books by three different – and equally wonderful – Dorothies; Miss Baker, Miss Whipple, and my beloved Miss Richardson.  Whilst a handful of their books have been reissued by the likes of NYRB and Persephone, many are still sadly out of print, and rather difficult to get hold of.  Still, the following are the ones which I am coveting!

Dorothy Baker (1907-1968; most famous for Cassandra at the Wedding, 1962)

1. Young Man With a Horn (1938) 518al6ccrol-_sx310_bo1204203200_
‘Rick Martin loved music and the music loved him. He could pick up a tune so quickly that it didn’t matter to the Cotton Club boss that he was underage, or to the guys in the band that he was just a white kid. He started out in the slums of LA with nothing, and he ended up on top of the game in the speakeasies and nightclubs of New York. But while talent and drive are all you need to make it in music, they aren’t enough to make it through a life.   Dorothy Baker’s Young Man with a Horn is widely regarded as the first jazz novel, and it pulses with the music that defined an era. Baker took her inspiration from the artistry—though not the life—of legendary horn player Bix Beiderbecke, and the novel went on to be adapted into a successful movie starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day.’

2. Trio (1943)
A comprehensive and intriguing review can be found at A Penguin a Week, here.

 

51kkv-ltu5l-_sx335_bo1204203200_Dorothy Whipple (1893-1966; nine of her books are published by Persephone)
1. Young Anne (1927)
A fascinating review of this, and Persephone’s choice to reprint, can be found at BooksSnob’s blog.

2. Every Good Deed (1950)
BooksSnob has also reviewed this novel, which you can see here.

 

 

Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957; most famous for the Pilgrimage trilogy)

  1. The Long Day (1905)
    The Long Day: The Story of a New York Working Girl, As Told by Herself is a book about the life of a working-class girl. She was formerly a teacher in a small town, but is now alone in New York City, living day to day on a few dollars. She lives from boarding house to boarding house, experiencing harsh rules, starvation, and the death of a friend. Furthermore, she works in a number of different positions, including box-making, flower/feather making, sewing, and finally, a shaker. Throughout this time, she learns what it is like to live on a few dollars a week, working twelve-hour shifts with horrible conditions and few breaks. Ultimately, she is able to earn a respectable living as a typewriter.  At the time the book was released, Richardson remained anonymous.’

 

Have you read any of these?  Which are your favourite books by Dorothies?

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One From the Archive: ‘Because of the Lockwoods’ by Dorothy Whipple ****

I revisited this beautiful novel for mine and Yamini’s Fifty Women project, dipping in and out at will.  Below is my original review, which was first published here in February.

Because of the Lockwoods is Persephone’s 110th publication, and the eighth Dorothy Whipple book upon their list.  First published in 1949, Whipple’s penultimate novel focuses upon two very different families living in a small town in the north of England: ‘One, the Lockwoods, wealthy and powerful, in a position to patronise and help the second family, the poor Hunters, who have been left fatherless with a weak, ineffectual mother’.

The preface to the volume, which is at once well-developed, coherent, and very nicely written, has been penned by author Harriet Evans.  She begins her introduction in a marvellous way, by showing her love of Whipple’s work as follows: ‘If, like me, you are one of the thousands of readers who discovered Dorothy Whipple through Persephone’s reissues, you know well that feeling of resigned bewilderment suffusing the sigh of satisfaction you utter after finishing one of her novels.  Why isn’t she better known?  Why has she been so neglected, when every time someone picks her up for the first time they almost always become a fan?’

Evans goes on to write that Whipple – ‘an intensely moral writer’ – ‘wrote books quite unlike any others, for all their seeming “ordinariness”‘.  ‘She never preaches,’ Evans tells us, ‘merely lets us think she is observing and conveying information…  She is so damned unputdownable…  You are desperate to read on, to know that good, as personified by the heroine, Thea, and her family will prevail; that the world is not as dark as Whipple shows us it can be so often’.

As well as the well-evoked northern landscapes which the Lockwoods and Hunters live against, part of the story takes place in a beautifully drawn French town named Villeneuve.  Whipple is an incredibly perceptive author, who reveals the standings of both families almost immediately: ‘Mrs Lockwood decided to invite Mrs Hunter and her children to Oakfield for New Year’s Eve.  It would be one way of getting the food eaten up’.  All of her characters are deftly and distinctively built; Whipple gives one a vivid picture of each of her protagonists, and then follows one or two of them during each subsequent chapter.  This is a wonderful way in which to demonstrate the contrast and differing priorities between the two families, as well as allowing the story to unfold in a natural manner.

Because of the Lockwoods is a compelling read, filled as it is with beautiful writing and wonderfully drawn characters.  Whipple is an intelligent and rather fascinating author, whose plot stays with the reader long after the final page has been absorbed.  I, for one, am definitely a new convert to Whipple’s work, and can only hope that this reprint allows even more readers to discover her.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Classics Club #33: ‘Someone at a Distance’ by Dorothy Whipple *****

After a few not very good and rather disappointing reads, I really felt in the mood for a Persephone.  I adore the books which they publish, and for me, they are one of the most important publishing houses which exists today.  Dorothy Whipple is an author who seems to be one of the most adored on the Persephone list, and I was eager to begin another of her novels, particularly as it helped towards crossing another number off my Classics Club list.  Someone at a Distance, which was published in 1953, was also the lovely Yamini‘s March choice for me to read in the little monthly Instagram project which we are running between ourselves.

Someone at a Distance is introduced by Nina Bawden, an author whose work I very much enjoy.  She writes of how much she admires Whipple’s work, and says this about the novel: ‘[it] is, on the face of it, a fairly ordinary tale of a deceived wife and a foolish husband in rural suburbia not far from London and, perhaps because the author was nearing sixty when she wrote it, there is a slight pre-war flavour about the domestic expectations of the characters’.   Bawden goes on to say that ‘Whipple is a storyteller in the straightforward tradition of J.B. Priestley and Arnold Bennett rather than Virginia Woolf or Elizabeth Bowen’.

I was beguiled from the novel’s very beginning.  The opening chapter sets the tone of the whole wonderfully: ‘Widowed, in the house her husband had built with day and night nurseries and a music-room, as if the children would stay there for ever, instead of marrying and going off at the earliest possible moment, old Mrs. North yielded one day to a long-felt desire to provide herself with company.  She answered an advertisement in the personal column of The Times‘.  A young Frenchwoman, Louise Lanier, determined to spend the summer in England, is its author.  Of her newest venture, Mrs North says the following: ‘”At my age, I don’t expect fun…  But I hope it will be interesting.  I’m too old to go in search of change, so I’ll try to bring change into the house.  It’s too quiet as it is.”‘

As with a lot of the books on the Persephone list, Someone at a Distance is a familial novel.  Avery North, son of the formidable matriarch, is a publisher.  Ellen, his wife, is focused upon, and she is one of the most realistic constructs whom I have come across in fiction in such a long time: ‘Guiltily, pleasurably, she avoided the parties Bennett and North gave for authors, agents and the like…  everybody talked vociferously, and though here and there people moved aside, smiling, to let her pass, nobody interrupted conversation for her.  Slight, fair, with no idea at all of trying to make an impression, she didn’t look important and nobody wondered who she was’.

Whipple exemplifies the changing times within society marvellously: ‘Maids had disappeared from the domestic scene long ago…  Ellen now did as her neighbours did and employed day, or, more properly, half-day, women’.  We learn both about the North family, and headstrong Louise Lanier, as she finds her feet.  Whipple’s description of her is vivid from the very first: ‘Her lips were made up, even for breakfast, in a magenta colour, which nevertheless matched the varnish on the nails of her narrow hands…  What was remarkable about her, the offspring of two large, baggy parents, was her clear-cut, almost exquisite finish…  Yes, she could look after herself.  She was far from ordinary’.

‘Straightforward’ Whipple’s prose may be, but one is drawn in immediately.  Some of the turns of phrase which she crafts are beautiful: ‘Wisteria toppled over a high garden wall in dusty mauve cascades’.  This is, quite honestly, a stunning novel, and one of the best books which I have read in a long while.  As an author, Whipple has an incredible amount to offer; her books provide a marvellously restful solace in our hectic world.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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‘Because of the Lockwoods’ by Dorothy Whipple ****

Because of the Lockwoods is Persephone’s 110th publication, and the eighth Dorothy Whipple book upon their list.  First published in 1949, Whipple’s penultimate novel focuses upon two very different families living in a small town in the north of England: ‘One, the Lockwoods, wealthy and powerful, in a position to patronise and help the second family, the poor Hunters, who have been left fatherless with a weak, ineffectual mother’.

The preface to the volume, which is at once well-developed, coherent, and very nicely written, has been penned by author Harriet Evans.  She begins her introduction in a marvellous way, by showing her love of Whipple’s work as follows: ‘If, like me, you are one of the thousands of readers who discovered Dorothy Whipple through Persephone’s reissues, you know well that feeling of resigned bewilderment suffusing the sigh of satisfaction you utter after finishing one of her novels.  Why isn’t she better known?  Why has she been so neglected, when every time someone picks her up for the first time they almost always become a fan?’

Evans goes on to write that Whipple – ‘an intensely moral writer’ – ‘wrote books quite unlike any others, for all their seeming “ordinariness”‘.  ‘She never preaches,’ Evans tells us, ‘merely lets us think she is observing and conveying information…  She is so damned unputdownable…  You are desperate to read on, to know that good, as personified by the heroine, Thea, and her family will prevail; that the world is not as dark as Whipple shows us it can be so often’.

As well as the well-evoked northern landscapes which the Lockwoods and Hunters live against, part of the story takes place in a beautifully drawn French town named Villeneuve.  Whipple is an incredibly perceptive author, who reveals the standings of both families almost immediately: ‘Mrs Lockwood decided to invite Mrs Hunter and her children to Oakfield for New Year’s Eve.  It would be one way of getting the food eaten up’.  All of her characters are deftly and distinctively built; Whipple gives one a vivid picture of each of her protagonists, and then follows one or two of them during each subsequent chapter.  This is a wonderful way in which to demonstrate the contrast and differing priorities between the two families, as well as allowing the story to unfold in a natural manner.

Because of the Lockwoods is a compelling read, filled as it is with beautiful writing and wonderfully drawn characters.  Whipple is an intelligent and rather fascinating author, whose plot stays with the reader long after the final page has been absorbed.  I, for one, am definitely a new convert to Whipple’s work, and can only hope that this reprint allows even more readers to discover her.

Purchase from The Book Depository