Sunday, April 26, 2009

Musing on Dorothy Whipple's Writings

OK I know I've written several reviews of her books. But I was thinking about a comment I read as to why she fell out of favour in the fifties. 'Someone at a Distance,' being her last book. Why did such a good writer fall out of favour?

From the books I've read, I think it's because her families are all Upstairs families and not really Downstairs families. Even the one's that fall on hard times, are upstairs families. There are downstairs characters in her books, but these are not the major characters in her stories, but supporting characters.

You could make the same comment about Jane Austin, but I think the distance of time, period setting and more of a romantic genera keeps her in vogue.

During WWII, many social classes worked side by side, as you can see when you read Housewife 49. People were not going to go back to the upstairs, downstairs mentality. They were not going to be called by their last name only, as servants were, when they had a perfectly good first name. Neither did they want to read about it, however well written. Yes the angry young man was now coming into vogue.

One thing that I did notice that came out very strongly in all of the books of DW that I have read so far. Is that women needed to have a sound education. It came out in 'Someone at a Distance,' when Ellen could only get a job as a live in house-keeper type position. She lamented that being a wife that's all she was trained to do.

In 'The Priory,' Christine has to take a position as an assistant in a London salon and cannot even pay her way in a rooming house, let alone have her little girl live with her. And promises herself that Angela shall have an education and never be put in the position she is in.

Greenbanks, Rachel is encouraged by an enlightened head mistress to strive for excellence in her education, and she wins a scholarship to Oxford, although her father does not let her take it.

DW addressed very valid family issues with beautiful language, and a deep understanding of character and thinking; which in review makes her writings timeless.


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