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High Wages

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  171 ratings  ·  32 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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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred WatsonMiss Buncle's Book by D.E. StevensonThe Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson BurnettMariana by Monica DickensThe Priory by Dorothy Whipple
Best Persephone Books
17th out of 90 books — 63 voters
Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie LehmannHigh Wages by Dorothy WhippleThe Serendipity Shop by Dorita Fairlie BruceThe Abbey Girls on Trial by Elsie J. OxenhamSummer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
Shop Girls
2nd out of 54 books — 14 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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?
Katey Lovell
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
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
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
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
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
Wendy Greenberg
How can you do anything but love a book that describes things as "efflugent" ....people becoming "empurpled" and turning to Marcus Aurelius for advice because he is "all embracing"? Let's hear it for Dorothy Whipple!
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
Great story from 1930's Britain. Reminded me a little of "We Capture the Castle" -- a perfect novel to curl up with during the holidays. It's set at the moment where retail is transitioning from fabric stores, where you'd buy material for your dressmaker to make up, and clothing stores where you bought something ready-made. Intrepid heroine, lots of period detail.
I found this at the Athenaeum with a few other Dorothy Whipple novels that are being reissued. They're not easy to find here though.
This is one of my favourite persephone's so far. It's about a girl who leaves her step mother's house to go and 'live in' and work at a tailors shop, where she is paid a pittance. she quickly makes a success of her post, and takes the decision to set up on her own, with help from a friend she makes through her position. As well as the theme of women's independence in a man's world, the book also looks at themes of love, adultery and the power of friendship.
Originally published in 1930, this is the story of a young girl called Jane who works in a dress shop in a north England mill town before (during and after) World War I. This story looks at business, society and manners, class distinctions, marriage, and more. I enjoyed it, even though I was frustrated by the restrictions of the male-dominated and snobbish world.
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.
"This book made me want to jump right in and get acquainted with the characters. It made me, however silly this might seem, want to hold on tight and hug it all the time."

Read the rest of my thoughts on the book here:
Julia Tracey
I liked the protagonist, Jane Carter. Surprised at the slow pace of the story that moved along at its own pace, and yet the story never dragged. It was a peaceful walk in the countryside, and even in dramatic moments never felt ungainly. A lovely slip into the past. Good ending, too.
Stephanie Stennett
Not up to the standard of her later work, but pretty good. I love tales of retail purgatory. Wish it were more about fashion and business. The love story in this never convinces me, and it feels sort of an afterthought. Quite fun though, and I love Casting the Movie.
Wonderful offering from Dorothy Whipple, who gives us characters with plenty of shading, great commentary regarding the advance of the modern world and its impact on the lives of village dwellers, and a dress shop I wish existed here and now...

Another wonderful read from Dorothy Whipple. As usual, almost every character overturns your expectations by the end of the book, but in an entirely believable way.
Another beautiful and thoughtful book by Dorothy Whipple. Vivid characters, engaging storyline with great insights into the human heart.
charming book, published by Persephone Press of UK. written in 1927 and set in England. themes still run run today in this country.
Here's my review of this book.
Gina House
I can't get enough of her books. They're like afternoon tea with your best friend. Will need to reread this one soon!
Dorothy Whipple is just so very readable. The perfect post Christmas slump book.
I loved it. It brought to mind the department stores of my Welsh childhood.
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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
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