This is my favourite Whipple to date. I found this novel compelling reading when and how would Mr Lockwood’s fraud be discovered? What would happen to all of the Hunters? Whipple’s ability to write about ordinary people in an interesting manner is amazing. I find it difficult to understand why she is not more wildly known.
Here is the blurb …
Dorothy Whipple excels in her portrayal of family life and in her wise and humourous understanding of the many elements of character and personality that clash to make up a family. Her new book, while not a family chronicle in the accepted sense, is a subtle and convincing portrayal of character in a family setting and shows with delightful perception how the grown person can still be influenced by the events of childhood. In Thea, denied the easy way by the lack of financial security, readers will recognize one of Mrs Whipple’s best characters. In her mother and her brother and her sister; in the Lockwoods against whose patronage Thea so determinedly rebelled; in the frank forthright Oliver Reade, symbol of a new order of things, and in the vivid portrayal of English North Country and French Provincial life, readers of Mrs Whipple’s earlier novels, Greenbanks, They Knew Mr Knight and They Were Sisters to name a few, will immediately recognize that once again her charm and her humourous but acute acceptance of the strange twists of life and people have produced a story as enjoyable as any of its predecessors.
I do reveal a bit about the plot, so be warned. Mrs Hunter is hopeless completely incapable of organising her family and their affairs after the unexpected death of her husband. In step the Lockwoods. Mr Lockwood would rather not help and certainly helps with an ill-grace. The Hunters are made very aware of their reduced social standing (Mrs Hunter gets Mrs Lockwood’s cast off clothing and they are invited to look at the gifts the Lockwoods are giving other people). Molly is sent of to be a nursery maid – despite being obviously unsuited to the the position and Martin becomes a clerk at a bank (despite wanting to be a doctor). Thea is the only one who doesn’t think the Lockwoods are kind or generous. She hates their patronising interference, but is at a loss as to how to resurrect her family’s fortune and respect. Ultimately Oliver is the one to provide the help and guidance the family need and Thea finds and opportunity for revenge and then regrets the impulse.
The best part of this novel are the wonderful characters – they are all complicated. Mr Lockwood could easily descend to a Mr Brocklehurst type villain, but we do ultimately feel sympathy for him. Thea is young and excitable, but she matures over the course of the novel and finally recognizes Oliver’s true worth.
This is definitely worth reading if you like domestic fiction or character driven fiction.
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