Thursday, April 14, 2011

Because of the Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple

I have now read three books by Dorothy Whipple, who has quickly become one of my new favorite authors.   I've read two of her books published by Persephone, and based on these great reviews by Book Snob and The Literary Stew, I sought out Because of the Lockwoods.  Currently it's out of print but I was able to get it very easily via ILL (and I've heard a rumor that it's going to be reprinted by Persephone in 2012!).

Anyhow, this book is basically about two families, the Hunters and the Lockwoods, who live in a fictional industrial town in Northern England.  The Lockwoods are doing very well and are regarded as local gentry, though they are not titled, and the Hunters have fallen on hard times.  Mr. Hunter was an architect who lost money during WWI (since no one was building), and then he had the bad luck to die, leaving very little for his wife and three children.  Mrs. Lockwood pressed her husband into serving as a sort of financial advisor to Mrs. Hunter, who is pretty spineless and helpless.  Mr. Lockwood has not done a very good job of helping with the finances.  Not only that, Mrs. Lockwood and her eldest children seem to take great pleasure in constantly showing off their good fortune to the Hunters.   They were so obnoxious that I wanted to jump into the book and give these people a good smack.

The youngest Hunter child, Thea, has both brains and spunk, and she decides she's tired of genteel poverty and she's going to make something of her life.  The three Lockwood sisters are going to France for a year of school, and she decides that she wants to go too.  Of course, being poor, she'll work as a teacher, but so what?  She's dying to go to France and see the world, so off she goes.

Of course, things do not go as planned.  I won't go into detail and spoil the plot, but young Thea's desire to better herself sets off a chain of events that affects both families, in good ways and bad.  Like The Village by Marghanita Laski, this book is ostensibly domestic fiction, but it has a lot of undercurrents about the British class system and attitudes about wealth and upbringing.   Some of the characters are just infuriating with their snobbery and entitled attitudes, and I really wanted to throttle them.

Once again, Whipple's characters are brilliantly drawn.  I loved Thea and hated the Lockwoods, and I was rooting for one particular character who was working really hard to make a better life for himself and his family.  Again, like The Village, some of the characters were so passively accepting of their situation, and some had the gumption to make something of themselves.  I guess it is just my innate American-ness that can relate to this -- it's that pioneer spirit, in which anyone can come here and make something of himself if he works hard enough.

[By the way, the cover in the image is sort of deceiving -- by the hairstyle, it looks vaguely 1950s to me but in fact it's set between the wars.  That edition happens to be published in 1949, so there you are.]

Now that I have a new favorite author, I have a dilemma -- do I read all of her books at once, or spread them out and make them last longer?  It's a conundrum, especially since she's dead and won't be publishing any more books.  Bloggers, what do you do?  Do you become obsessed with an author and read all the works right after the other, or do you ration them out?  Should I read the rest of the Whipples or save them for later?


  1. I have not read any Whipple yet but I have seen lots of great things over a few blogs recently. I have added this to my wishlist and hopefully I can catch up with some other readers soon.

    If I have a favourite author, I try not to read them all in one go, I think that can dilute the greatness of the books and the author. I speak from experience. You need a break to find more lovely books to read and discover.

    Lovely blog.

  2. How wonderful to track down an oop Whipple. This sounds wonderful, and I do hope Persephone reissue it, and Greenbanks too. I've heard it said that Persephone plan to reissue all of the Whipples, but that may of been wishful thinking.

    As to the cover, believe me it's nothing to the 1950s edition of The Turning of the Screw I saw trhe other day!

  3. A little bit of both. I guess it depends on how prolific the author was. With Josephine Tey, I read about half of hers pretty quickly and I have the other half on the TBR waiting for me. I also have my first Dorothy Whipple on the TBR shelf - I've heard so much about her that I've been waiting for time to really enjoy it. That will hopefully be this summer. Great review, btw. I had never heard of this title. Thanks for sharing with us!

  4. Oh I do hope they publish them all so I can read them! It's not easy getting Whipples so well done in finding this one.
    I think I try to ration treasured authors as much as I can, although I sometimes give way and read a couple one after the other and then try to distract myself with another author. A conundrum indeed. Go with your mood :-)

  5. If the rumours are true then this is very good news indeed! There are a couple of unread Whipple's on my bookshelf and as much as I would love to gobble them up it is all about delayed gratification.

  6. Personally, I would space them out. Just to let you know, I have never been one to read EVERYTHING by an author. In fact, I own 3 books I have yet to read by the guy I say is my favorite. (Tracy Kidder - nonfiction) I have read 5, which is quite amazing for me, really.
    (btw, per your comment at my blog? don't hate me but I LOVED LOVED LOVED Adaptation and that is why I read Orchid Thief!)

  7. I always think I should dole the books by a favorite author out, but in practice I tend to read (and really enjoy) a bunch at once, even if I save a couple for later. Dorothy Whipple sounds like someone I'd be reading a lot at once.
    Susan E

  8. The first author I looked for on Project Gutenberg after I got my birthday Kindle was Whipple. Sadly, she isn't on there yet, and I can't find her books ANYWHERE, but I shall not despair. If ever I am abroad in the UK, I shall be looking for HER!

  9. osbookjourney -- I am trying to spread them out but it is hard! I hope you can get your hands on some DW books, I think she was just great.

    Fleurfisher -- I know Greenbanks is one of the fall releases. I was thinking about return this ILL unread and waiting until next year, in case Persephone reissues it, so I could spread them out. I decided I couldn't wait. And I still have three owned and unread and I haven't bought all the Persephones yet, so I'm spacing them somewhat.

    Susan in TX -- which Whipple do you have? I hope you like it, please let me know when you have time to read it.

    Cristina -- I have so many authors I want to read I should find others to fill in the gaps. Like 44 more Trollopes and most of Zola. . . and Dickens. . . and Sarah Waters (who is thankfully still writing!)

    Care -- I know I've read all of Jane Austen but I think that's the only author I've completely finished. I still have more than 600 books on my TBR list so I'm in no danger of running out of things to read! And of course I couldn't hate you for loving Adaptation. I read The Orchid Thief first and loved it. I'm sure it would have been different if I'd seen the movie first.

    Susan E. -- I'm sure when I finally finish all her books I'll fall in love with another author. There's always the back catalog of all the Persephone authors, some of them have written lots more books. Of course they're probably all out of print. . .

    Aarti -- you should try ILL. I've gotten 3 Whipples that way (from Mt. Holyoke, the University of Arkansas, and somewhere in Oklahoma). I actually have EIGHT books from the Persephone catalog checked out from various libraries via ILL. I've had really good luck with ILL. If you're looking for other Persephone titles, they might have some in the college library (if not the Whipples). Especially the nonfiction. You can also find inexpensive copies for sale online as well.

  10. I'm so glad you loved this Karen! Great review! I adored this and the fact that the characters were so alive was fantastic - even when I did want to throttle them!

    I have read all of Dorothy's novels and adored each of them in their own way. My personal favourite is Greenbanks, but I also particularly enjoyed The Priory, as well as High Wages.

  11. I hope Persephone reprint all the Whipples, she's my favourite Persephone author. I tend to space out an author's books but mainly because I have so much I want to read that I go on to something different. I did read nearly all of Edmund Crispin's detective novels one summer though, it was wonderful.

  12. I've read this one and really hope that Persephone bring it back into print soon. I hate it that many of my favourite authors are very dead and there is no hope of anymore books from them.

  13. Hmmm, that is a dilemma. I would probably just read her books as I felt like them, because you never know, she may be replaced as your favourite author, and you can always go back and reread books that you love.

  14. I have never read any Dorthy Whipple but she sounds fantastic! I just added her to my TBR. Also, as far as reading new favorite authors: I like to spread out their books, one every month or so.

  15. I really like domestic novels. I also really like Laski -- and cant' wait to give Whipple a try!

  16. Bookssnob -- I'm really looking forward to Greenbanks and High Wages. I'm trying to space out the Whipples but it's so tempting to read them all!

    Lyn -- good point, the more blogs I read, the more authors I discover. I still have to finish Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Pearl S. Buck, and then there's all the Virago books! Plus the back catalog for all the Persephone authors.

    Verity -- I love your comment about authors being "very dead" !! I've been known to say authors are currently dead. I think I like very dead better.

    Mother etc. -- good point about new favorite authors. I can have a lot favorites, can't I? Just like I have a lot of favorite desserts!

    Brenna -- One a month is a good idea. Of course there are some authors that I will NEVER finish, like Trollope (I have 44 of his works left to go and some of them are 800 pages!).

    Rebecca Reid -- I like domestic fiction too. I think that's why I like Jane Austen so much -- it's everyday life, but other people's lives are so much more interesting than mine!

  17. Must read more Whipple. Loved Someone at a Distance but that's all I've read. Great review.

  18. I've been holding on for a possible Persephone Whipple reprinting, but now think I should just search for a secondhand copy - you make this sound so great! Like you The Village is my favourite Laski of the ones I've read so am intrigued by the similarities you've spotted.


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