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High Wages

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  277 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
A 1930 novel by Persephone Books' most popular writer about a girl who sets up a dress shop.
Paperback, 316 pages
Published 2009 by Persephone Books (first published 1930)
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(showing 1-30)
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Sep 23, 2010 Ali rated it it was amazing
I have become a great fan of Dorothy Whipple - and have loved each of the novels re- published by Persephone that I have read. Although prehaps not quite as powerful as Someone at a Distance, or They were Sisters, this 1930 novel is still brilliant. Dorothy Whipple's portrayal of a northern mill- town around the time of the first world war is wonderful, full of believable characters and social commentary. The central character is Jane, an ambitious young girl, now alone in the world who arrives ...more
Kim Kaso
Jun 12, 2016 Kim Kaso rated it really liked it
A solid 4.5 for me. I loved this quiet story of Jane's trials and tribulations, her hard work and determination leading to what the world would see as a small triumph but which in its time for a single woman was nearly revolutionary. Just the ticket for me right now. I am so happy Persephone is re-issuing these books, they are so full of everyday life.
May 22, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it
A while back I had the opportunity to visit the Persephone Books shop in London. I went there with a purpose--to buy all of the Dorothy Whipple books they had in stock. I the proceeded to carry four novels around London all day. My back hurt, my arm hurt, and I vowed to never again buy books on vacation.

All of that was made worth it when I read High Wages. It is delightful to read, yet thought provoking. I am always interested in period women's literature that discusses the true lives of women
Nov 07, 2014 Mirte rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
This is the second Persephone Book I read, and I was once more touched by the aura of feminine culture and community surrounding it. High Wages deals with the life of a shop girl in the 1910s and leaves nothing out; the happy Sundays off, the boredom of rainy days in the shop, the meanness of employers and the support of workers among one another. Though Jane's life certainly goes uphill in the novel, it's not a glorified rags-to-riches story, and attention is paid to the less pleasant sides of ...more
Beth Bonini
Oct 16, 2016 Beth Bonini rated it really liked it
Author Jane Brocket wrote the Preface to this Persephone reissue, and it describes - rather brilliantly, I thought - what makes this book such a fascinating bit of social history. It's the story of an ambitious 'shop girl' called Jane Carter. Orphaned as a young teen, Jane has the intelligence, taste and work ethic to transcend the rather narrow role that she has been cast in. Through her own devices, she rises from an assistant at Chadwick's - an old-fashioned haberdashery in the Lancashire tow ...more
Kim Bishop
Feb 21, 2017 Kim Bishop rated it liked it
Interestingly, I didn't enjoy this as much as some other Whipples - not sure why, except that I didn't really engage with the main character. However, there were still some wonderful lines which I wish I'd written down...
May 03, 2010 Alice rated it really liked it
Shelves: persephone
A modern reader could easily dismiss 'High Wages' as saccharine and shallow. I am sorry for this reader - they have missed the subtle feminism, triumphant self-definition, and realistic disappointment with which Whipple liberally embroiders her 'shop girl' story. In fact, one could argue that the 'shop girl' is simply a loom for the story's fabric of social change, woman's independence, class distinctions, and man's relationship to war and post-war roles. Written in 1930, Whipple's book is an en ...more
Nov 28, 2016 Sandra rated it it was amazing
Loved it. And the best line in the book? "Tidsley was a-seethe"!
Mar 26, 2016 Lindsey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: persephone
Published in 1930, the book opens in 1912 and spans about ten years. It tells a shop-girl-made-good story, but the "made good" development has nothing to do with a man. Rather, the shop girl with the excellent work ethic, keen business sense, and energy and ideas makes good by opening her very own dress shop and being in charge of her own life at last.

Full of period detail and a competent while relatable protagonist, the book explores many ideas of women and young people in the work place that a
Dec 27, 2009 Susann rated it really liked it
Shelves: persephone
My 2010 reading is off to a good start with this latest from Persephone, about a pre-WWI girl who goes to work in a shop. Whipple hands the reader work issues, women-at-work issues, class issues, love conflicts–all wrapped up in a story that, by the final third of the novel, I could not put down.

Mrs. Briggs was one of my favorite characters and I loved seeing her in action in Blackpool. More than anything, I was impressed with Whipple's way of showing how, for better or worse, we humans are so a
Oct 26, 2014 Claude rated it really liked it
Quite an enjoyable read, in spite of the tiny font used for the book. Persephone books are meant for people with good eyesight, which is not, unfortunately, my case.
I have downloaded another Dorothy Whipple book and will enjoy it on my kindle.
Alice Lippart
Oct 08, 2016 Alice Lippart rated it liked it
A delightful read, filled with the everyday life of the early 1900's. Not overly fond of the romance aspects, but reading about Jane and her work was wonderful.
Katey Lovell
Oct 04, 2013 Katey Lovell rated it liked it
I read High Wages for the Sheffield Persephone Book Group, and we last Thursday we met at Bird's Yard Sheffield to discuss our latest read. Here are a few of my thoughts about the book.

High Wages had appealed to me for a long time, mainly because everything I'd read about it indicated it was the story of a young woman starting a business and making her way in the world. Although written in 1930, the book is set from c1912 into the 1920s, and I'd expected Whipple's novel to offer a good insight i
Dec 25, 2014 Gina rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, favorites, 2015
High Wages is one of three novels I recently purchased from Persephone Books', who reprints forgotten female authors of the early to mid 20th century. First of all the books are beautiful, the covers are exteremly smooth and fall open perfectly. The endpapers are so striking and unique to each book - in this case a 1930 Cryséde Ltd. dress fabric called Farm Scene is showcased. Inside, the words were just as aesthetically pleasing. Whipple introduces us to determined and ambitious Jane Carter alo ...more
Jun 01, 2015 Catherine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who enjoy social history & women's history
High Wages is about a young woman, Jane, who leaves home to work as a draper's assistant in a small northern town, eventually saving enough to set up her own shop. As with other Dorothy Whipple books I've read, it's an interesting, enjoyable, but undemanding read. I especially loved the detail about life in the shop, the petty meanness of the shop owner and his wife, and Jane's friendships with other women. I found the romantic elements a bit unconvincing and the ending felt a little rushed and ...more
Feb 04, 2012 Rosemary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: persephone
Jane Carter embarks on life as a shop assistant in a small town in Lancashire after the death of her father, around the time of the First World War. With guts, skill and intelligence she claws her way up to having her own business, making enemies as well as friends along the way. I found this a very enjoyable and involving story.
May 04, 2016 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
I thought this was going too fast and would betray my trust in the pacing and in Jane's growth in the last 20 pages - but nope! It remained as resolute and determined toward the future as it had throughout.
Jan 26, 2012 Hol added it
Maybe not the best Dorothy Whipple (for me, that's Someone at a Distance), but I loved the setting--a small-town dressmaking shop in England in the teens--and she pulls of that great trick, as ever, of creating characters I feel I would recognize if I met them on the street. How does she do it?
Jun 10, 2016 Sara rated it liked it
Jane, Jane, Jane. *sigh*
The vibrant, fresh main character of HIGH WAGES is fully human, moral warts and all. Enough so, actually, that I found myself getting thoroughly disappointed in her and starting to slog through at about the two-thirds point. A shame, with Whipple's talented writing.
The Priory remains my favorite Dorothy Whipple novel so far and it's hard to imagine any work will pack the emotional punch of Someone at a Distance. But High Wages was very good and left me a bit pensive (in a good way). Whipple's writing is understated and it's easy to think this is a simple story of a shop girl working hard to make good. But the well-drawn characters and the themes of social status, greed, and goodness resonate rather deeply. In the first half of the novel, there is a scene w ...more
Kerstin ~ (SheReadsByMoonlight)
I finally read my first book by Dorothy Whipple and all the raving reviews about her writing were correct. This book was quite a delight, and as far as I know, actually counts as one of her weaker works.

The story centers around Jane, a young orphaned woman, who makes her living as a shop girl in a small town. The reader follows her through the ups and downs life throws at her, on her way to hopefully own her own business one day. Set around the time of WW1, class division, the change in social
Aug 31, 2013 Sorcha rated it really liked it
Shelves: persephone, 2013
At the beginning of this book, Jane finds herself in her late teens, working in a small time draper’s shop. Her father has died before the book starts, leaving Jane living with her step mother and stepsiblings, and Jane is now self aware enough to know that she needs to leave as soon as she can.

She gets a new job working in a larger drapers than before, and through her youth and determination brings change and more business to her stuffy old boss. Finally she sets up shop for herself with the fi
Mar 01, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: england, read-in-2013
As Jane Brocket writes in her Persephone Preface: the novel ‘is a celebration of the Lancastrian values of hard work and stubbornness, and there could be no finer setting for a shop-girl-made-good story than the county in which cotton was king.’

High Wages is about a girl called Jane who gets a badly-paid job in a draper’s shop in the early years of the last century. The title of the book is based on a Carlyle quotation – ‘Experience doth take dreadfully high wages, but she teacheth like none oth
Apr 30, 2016 Pascale rated it liked it
A well-paced and consistently engaging novel centered on a feisty Lancashire girl who starts as a shop-girl and ends up the owner of her own dress shop. The story starts in 1912, and I was shocked to discover that back then, shop girls were virtually slaves. All they could aspire to was a dingy room on the premises, and inadequate meals largely consisting of offal. Jane Carter is a bright and lively girl with a nose for business. Although her boss, Mr. Chadwick, regularly cheats her out of her c ...more
Emgee (Armchair Amusements)
Jan 09, 2017 Emgee (Armchair Amusements) rated it really liked it
Dorothy Whipple’s High Wages was seriously fun to read. As someone who has worked in retail for nearly nine years, I found the book’s heroine Jane Carter easy to relate to and very likable, though I haven’t as much ambition, talent, and savvy to open my own clothing business as she does in the book. The story begins in 1912, in the English town of Tidsley, where Jane finds a job working in a draper’s shop. For next six years, she toils under the thumb of the shop’s owner, the pompous Mr. Chadwic ...more
Jul 17, 2009 Cera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely not high literature, but a pure pleasure!

After her father's death the very young Jane has to earn her own living, but she takes to it with gusto and finds her vocation and avocation working in the early 20th century fashion industry. The focus of the book is not on the ; she's smart and tough and thus makes as many enemies as friends, often inadvertently. Members of her own class find it hard to forgive her determination to succeed, and members of the middle class find her intelligen
Dec 09, 2015 Alanna rated it it was amazing
It feels like I'm being overly generous with my ratings recently, but I've had a really good year with my book choices!

This is my first Persephone book (which I picked at random in their lovely shop in London), as well as the first Dorothy Whipple novel I've read. Set on the cusp of WW1, it's a charming story of a shop girl making her own way as a business woman. It was quiet and subtle, but shouldn't be underestimated as a good feminist text, with some really interesting nods towards societal c
Jan 24, 2010 Sarah rated it liked it
High Wages is the story of Jane Carter, a young girl who moves to the small town and gets a job as a shop girl just before the First World War. Jane is smart and ambitious, a professional woman in Edwardian England. It is a simple story of her successes.

Dorothy Whipple is one of my favorite authors. I have read all her books currently in print. High Wages, the most recent offering from Persephone Books, is one of her earliest books and it lacks the complexity and polish of her later works. The p
Mar 06, 2016 Annie rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
This was a fun book that focused on the morals of hard work, and was quite enjoyable. I didn't love it quite as much as I was expecting to, but I liked Jane's character and her willingness to work so hard for her aspirations.

I think I would have loved this book more if the romance wasn't quite so strong at the end of the book, I felt like it was taking away from the whole plot of the dress shop and that annoyed me slightly.

I really loved the setting though, and will definitely be reading some
Jan 06, 2010 Moppet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
my favourite of Whipple’s books, which are insightful, entertaining and brilliantly observed. This one, first published in 1930, is the story of a shopgirl, Jane, who wants her own shop. Jane is talented, determined and resourceful, and you just know she is going to end up with a retail empire to rival Emma Harte’s in A Woman of Substance. But along the way she struggles to reconcile her career and her love life and to make her own way in a male-dominated, snobbish world.

Cross-posted to The Misa
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Born in 1893, DOROTHY WHIPPLE (nee Stirrup) had an intensely happy childhood in Blackburn as part of the large family of a local architect. Her close friend George Owen having been killed in the first week of the war, for three years she worked as secretary to Henry Whipple, an educational administrator who was a widower twenty-four years her senior and whom she married in 1917. Their life was mos ...more
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“In the radiance and the silence, she ran on the vast expanse of hard, smooth sand, beside herself with joy. Ah, when you only have a holiday once in a while, what a happiness it is! Each golden minute had to be held and perfected before it was let go.” 1 likes
“Trains passed in the opposite direction, taking back the cotton princes to Tidsley, Elton, Burrows, and further on to Southport, Blackpool, St. Anne's. She could see the occupants of the first-class carriages playing cards, or fallen into unlovely sleep. They did well to avert their eyes from the landscape they had made. They had made it; but they could not, like God, look and see that it was good. Monstrous slag-heaps, like ranges in a burnt-out hell; stretches of waste land rubbed bare to the gritty earth; parallel rows of back-to-back dwellings; great blocks of mill buildings, the chimneys belching smoke as thick and black as eternal night itself; upstanding skeletons of wheels and pulleys. Mills and mines; mills and mines all the way to Manchester, and the brick, the stone, the grass, the very air deadened down to a general drab by the insidious filter of soot.
But Jane, Lancashire born and bred, did not find it depressing. It was no feeble, trickling ugliness, but a strong, salient hideousness that was almost exhilarating.”
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