The Unjustly Neglected Dorothy Whipple
April 2018

I would like to induct Dorothy Whipple into my personal pantheon of wonderful—but underappreciated—authors of those comfortable, intelligent, well written, and well-plotted books known as “Delightful Reads.”  Whipple joins the likes of Barbara Pym, Nancy Mitford, and Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that Elizabeth Taylor), all of whom were highly successful during the mid-twentieth century, then fell out of favor, and, at last, are now being rediscovered and reprinted.

Whipple (1893-1966) wrote about 12 clever, character-driven novels about families in turmoil. She was hailed as the “Jane Austen of the 20th Century” by J.B. Priestly and her books are said to “deserve renewed recognition as minor classics.” (The Spectator)

Luckily for us, Persephone Books (publishers of neglected fiction by mid-twentieth century women writers) has reprinted eight of her books. I’d start with my two favorites:

  • Greenbanks: My number one Whipple novel, Greenbanks, is set in the eponymous large comfortable home in the English countryside during WWI. It spans the lives of three generations in the Ashton family. The plot revolves around Louisa, the grandmother and matriarch, and Rachel, her granddaughter—and all the uncles, aunts, and cousins in between.
  • The Priory: Another favorite of mine also happens to be set in a large family country home, this one known as Saunby Priory. There are three intertwining plots, each told from another point of view: the father marrying a spinster/stepmother; the “downstairs” romances; and the daughter Christine.
  • In honor of April Fool’s Day, however, I must add: Don’t be fooled They Knew Mr. Knight, the only Whipple novel I didn’t like. A totally predictable story about a family that gets bamboozled by a bad guy financier.

Can you think of any other authors who deserve to be inducted into the “Wonderful, But Neglected” panoply?

Last month, I asked you for your recommendations on books about inheritance. Here are your suggestions, almost none of which I’ve read: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins; The Other Family by Joanna Trollope; Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie; David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and Our Mutual Friend (and, let’s face it, just about anything) by Charles Dickens; and the one with the most promising title: Robert McCullough’s The Dog Got It All.