I love books written in the inter-war period; I love memoirs; and I love the middlebrow author Dorothy Whipple, so One Fine Day checks off so many boxes for me! It is the perfect read for Kaggsy and Simon's 1936 Club.
Born in 1893, in Blackburn, Lancashire, Whipple was the eldest child of what would be eventually a large family of seven children. She seemed to have a mostly idyllic childhood, though there would be heartaches. Young Dorothy especially loved the countryside and was fascinated by stories and folktales from a young age.
. . . the tales Kate told us got mixed up with the tales I told myself, so I could not sort them out, and walking over the wet roads between the low black stone walls and looking out to the far splendid hills with the cloud-shadows going over, I felt a deep satisfaction that the world should be so full of tales, of things that had happened and were happening. Anything seemed possible in those days, and I should not have been at all surprised if a great antediluvian beast had appeared among the browsing cows in the field, or if Mistress Nutter had overtaken us on a broomstick.
However, schools for girls in the early part of the century were spotty, and Dorothy had some pretty horrific school experiences -- a particularly nasty math teacher was constantly berating her, and at one point she's accused of plagiarizing a short story she'd written, which is so infuriating! (Obviously, her talent for writing began at a young age, since the teachers didn't believe a child could have written such a good story.
Finally her father decided to send her to a convent school, which he announced casually at the dinner table.
It was at meals that we mostly saw him. Vital changes in our young lives have been announced to the accompaniment of knives and forks clattering on plates, the gurgle of water being poured from glasses, and requests for more bread from unconcerned parties. While being helped to vegetables one's dearest hopes would fall between dish and plate never to be recovered, or on the other hand, one would be raised to the seventh heaven of delight by some promise made while waiting for the pudding to come in.
The news of Dorothy's new school came as shock but she grew to love it, though it was difficult as a Protestant in a school run by a Belgian order of nuns, with nearly all Catholic classmates. Naturally there are some funny and embarrassing school anecdotes.
A 1950 paperback edition cover
The book really only includes Dorothy's childhood, up to the age of twelve when the family moves permanently to the countryside. Of course Whipple was only in her forties when she wrote the memoir, but I would have loved to learn more about her coming-of-age and her life as a writer. Before The Other Day, Whipple had written four novels and a book short stories, which doesn't include some of her most popular works.
I've been a Whipple fan since I read The Priory, one of my very first Persephones, and it's thanks to Persephone that I have a pretty big collection of of her work, nearly every book in print and out of print. Nearly all of them are reprinted by Persephone, but not this one, and I'm sorry to say that copies are scarce and quite spendy when they do come on the market. I did pay rather a lot for this one, though not nearly as much as I've seen recently. I really do hope Persephone or one of the other publishers reprints this little gem!
And thanks again to Kaggsy and Simon for organizing the 1936 reading week, it's been so lovely reading about all the wonderful books published that year.