Friday, 11 June 2010

What a thrill when a package drops on the mat containing an extremely hard-to-get-hold-of Dorothy Whipple novel, on loan from a kind blogging friend.
(Tea and buns on me when I return it next week!)
Rachel had warned me that Every Good Deed was a very slim volume indeed - even the slowest of readers would easily finish it in an evening. And, of course, that disappointed us both because we'd prefer our Whipples supersized. (About the length of Wolf Hall would be just about right.)
This slender novel was published in 1946, in conformity with wartime economy standards; I wonder if that had a bearing on its length.
Rachel has already written a long and thoughtful review. Two genteel, middle-aged spinsters have their lives turned upside down after they adopt a tough young girl from a feckless, working-class family. No good deed, it seems, will go unpunished ... Gwen is a sly, thoroughly nasty little madam, and there's no way that lavishing any amount of love and attention, not to mention private education, is going to turn her into a decent young lady.
She runs away and it's no surprise at all when she lands right back on their doorstep as a girl 'in trouble.'
Of course, as Rachel has pointed out , Gwen is the stranger who brings turmoil to the happy home ... in Whipple terms, she's villainous Mr Knight or Louise in Someone at a Distance.
I didn't think that this was Whipple at the peak of her form. Gwen was too much of a stereotyped bad girl. I'd have liked her inner life to be more fleshed-out. There's glimmers of what it must have been like for her: 'You know, you two ... I daresay you've been very good and you meant well and all that, but your sort shouldn't really mix itself up with ours. Your life drives us bats, you know. A bit of reading and playing the piano, but nothing loud, oh no ... A bit of gardening and going to church - and what else? Nothing. How d'you expect anybody with guts to stand it?'
I'm sure that Dorothy Whipple must have been aware of girls like Gwen in Blackburn because her husband, after all, worked for many years for the local education authority.
I finished the book with a sigh ... so pleased I had the chance to read it. But sad because there is only one more novel left before I'm a Whipple completist. I still haven't read Because of the Lockwoods. I don't even know what it's about.
Could it be as good as Greenbanks? Or Mr Knight? Or Someone at a Distance?
I do hope that Dorothy and I go out with a bang!


Darlene said...

Do you listen to Woman's Hour? Recently, one of the guests was talking about how plaits are back in style. She said that in Dorothy Whipple books young girls wore plaits, when they fell in love for the first time...the plaits came out and their hair was worn loose. She had me at Dorothy Whipple!

mary said...

I've just played that programme back again, Darlene ... and I wonder which Whipple she meant? I only own a couple, I've mostly had them from the library, but I pulled Young Anne off the shelf ... no plaits there, as far as I can see, though there's a wonderful scene in Madame Juliette's hair salon where Anne has her hair put up for the first time ... and immediately pulls it down again in case the boy she likes might laugh at her. Someone at a Distance? That Anne has silvery hair but I can't see any mention of plaits. Aaargh, help me out, Darlene ...
I am still laughing because they described plaits as a way of 'civilising barbaric hair' ... I wore them for years, now alas I feel far too old for them so my hair has reverted to barbaric tangles!