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The Priory
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Buddy Reads > The Priory by Dorothy Whipple (Sept/Oct 2018)

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message 1: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10602 comments Mod
Published in 1939, this is Dorothy Whipple's fifth novel.

This 1939 country-house novel is set at Saunby Priory, a large house somewhere in England which has seen better times. We are shown the two Marwood girls, who are nearly grown-up, their father, the widower Major Marwood, and their aunt; then, as soon as their lives have been described, the Major proposes marriage to a woman much younger than himself - and many changes begin. 'The Priory is the kind of book I really enjoy,' wrote Salley Vickers in the Spectator, 'funny, acutely observed, written in clear, melodious but unostentatious prose, it deserves renewed recognition as a minor classic.'

http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/prio...

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...

We look forward to you joining us for our second Dorothy Whipple novel in mid-September.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I'm really looking forward to our read of The Priory, after enjoying our previous read of a book by Dorothy Whipple, Someone at a Distance.

I just received my lovely Persephone paperback today, and it looks quite fat, but, given the moreish nature of Whipple's writing, I'm sure it will be a quick read! Who else is reading this one?


message 3: by Tania (last edited Sep 14, 2018 01:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tania | 1070 comments I will be, but it's a busy time for me. I'm having to house hunt and pack up this house so have limited time. Really looking forward to this one though. I loved Someone at a Distance.


message 4: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val | 1709 comments I have a copy from the library and will start it when I have finished a couple which need to be back sooner.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
Good to hear you are both joining in. Hope the house move goes well, Tania.


Tania | 1070 comments Thanks. It's very time consuming trying to work out which books I can't live without :-) I have started this one now, I couldn't resist.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I've started too - fancy them all having to be in the dark until the Major gets home to save electricity! I know a lot of houses in the countryside were not on mains electricity at this time - my grandparents had a generator in the 1940s.


message 8: by carissa (last edited Sep 14, 2018 11:09PM) (new)

carissa Got it; will start reading this weekend.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
That's good to hear, Carissa.


message 10: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I've already read nearly 200 pages - really enjoying it. This is more of an upstairs/downstairs family saga than Someone at a Distance. I think there are some similarities between the Major in this book and Avery in our previous Whipple read - both selfish but charming.


Tania | 1070 comments Not far in yet but he certainly seems very self centered, and imagine proposing over the phone to save the bother of going over to see her, and face possible rejection.


message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I've read about 3/4 of it now - it's very moreish, with so many stories going on. Interesting to see how the sympathy shifts - some characters start off quite sympathetic and then become less so, or vice versa.


message 13: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I've now finished this and lost some enthusiasm in the later sections where I feel it becomes a bit melodramatic and soapy - I still enjoyed it, but not quite up there with Someone at a Distance for me.

Interesting to see how much there is about the fear of war - Whipple was very much writing about the world of 1939.


message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
There is an interesting afterword in the Persephone edition explaining that many of the characters in this were based on real people - apparently Whipple was fairly open about this and not everyone concerned was thrilled!


Tania | 1070 comments I have made no progress at all as my has been hit by a car so I have been to-ing and fro-ing from the vet. Hopefully I will get back it at the weekend. Looking forward to that.


message 16: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
So sorry to hear this, Tania - is it your dog or cat (word missing)? Hope it recovers soon.


Tania | 1070 comments Oops, Cat. Thank you. Hopefully she will recover. She is young so has that in her favour. I am looking forward to carrying on with the book, but no concentration at the moment.


message 18: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 10350 comments Mod
Oh no. Get well soon Tania's pet. My dog got hit by a car a few years ago and is now absolutely fine.


Tania | 1070 comments Thank you. She's an intrepid and sturdy little beast. Maybe she'll learn a bit of caution.


message 20: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
Hope she recovers quickly, Tania.


Tania | 1070 comments Thanks.


Karen Tania wrote: "Oops, Cat. Thank you. Hopefully she will recover. She is young so has that in her favour. I am looking forward to carrying on with the book, but no concentration at the moment." Hello Tania, I'm so sorry to hear this sad news.I hope she is going to be ok


Karen Judy wrote: "I've already read nearly 200 pages - really enjoying it. This is more of an upstairs/downstairs family saga than Someone at a Distance. I think there are some similarities between the Major in this..." Enjoying it so far and it reminds me of Downton Abbey/upstairs/downstairs


Lynaia | 468 comments Tania wrote: "I have made no progress at all as my has been hit by a car so I have been to-ing and fro-ing from the vet. Hopefully I will get back it at the weekend. Looking forward to that."

So sorry to hear about your cat. Hope she recovers soon. Prayers!


Tania | 1070 comments Thanks so much everyone. I got her home tonight so while I was thinking I'd have more time to read, I may have less, but I will join in more when I can get to it.
Thanks again.


message 26: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
What does anyone think of the character of Anthea? I felt she changes a lot during the book.

At the start I find her very sympathetic and self-effacing, but she becomes less appealing as the book comes on and I think perhaps a bit more sympathy shifts towards her husband, who seems extremely selfish early on.


Tania | 1070 comments So far, I've found her to be a bit of a wet blanket. I do sympathise with her, she is looking for her place within a family who have no need of her.


message 28: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I'll be interested to hear what you think of her later on, Tania, as I felt her character develops in some interesting ways.


Tania | 1070 comments Sounds intriguing.I'll let you know


message 30: by Val (last edited Sep 29, 2018 08:13AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val | 1709 comments Tania wrote: "So far, I've found her to be a bit of a wet blanket. I do sympathise with her, she is looking for her place within a family who have no need of her."
That is a good description of her character in the early part of the book and I thought her quite realistic for someone who lacks confidence coming into a long established (but badly managed) household. I am less convinced by her changes in character, but I still have quite a lot of the book left and they might make more sense later.


message 31: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
Val wrote: "I am less convinced by her changes in character,..."

That was how I felt, too - I'll be interested to hear what you think of her when you finish the book. Several of the characters develop and change in the course of the book, but with Anthea I wasn't sure I found it altogether believable. I found her friend Nurse Pye amusing but awful - a sort of exaggerated version of all the devoted nannies and nurses in books of this period!


message 32: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
For anyone who has finished, here is a link to an article about the book in the Persephone Forum:

https://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/con...


message 33: by Val (last edited Sep 30, 2018 02:22AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val | 1709 comments The alteration in Anthea is not so much a development as a complete change. Given a little bit of power, or a stronger character to back her up, she turns from someone who seems quite pleasant and empathic into a bully towards anyone with less power.
I suppose it is understandable for a mother to become selfish on behalf of her children, since Major Marwood is such a neglectful parent, but the way she treats her step-daughters goes beyond selfishness into a fairy tale caricature of the 'wicked stepmother'. There was nothing to suggest beforehand that she had that nasty side to her.
It is also not unusual for someone of her class to be high-handed with servants, but again her behaviour is extreme. Bessie had been helpful to Anthea beyond the requirements of her job, but Anthea first refuses Bessie permission to leave when she wants to, then later dismisses her and makes no attempt to help. Thompson is not one of the house servants, so his hiring and firing should be outside her remit. (Anthea's main regret over the whole affair is to be sorry she had not fired Bertha, but she would not know if that would have made a difference.) She could have given the cook a warning before firing her (or a clearer one than that rambling speech).
It should also have been up to Major Marwood, not Anthea, whether his sister stayed in the house or not, but Victoria does not seem to suffer by leaving.


message 34: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val | 1709 comments Re the article: So growing up means forgiving your husband the odd affair, because life is hard for single mothers. Pah!


message 35: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I agree with your comments, Val - I thought it was odd for Anthea to change from someone so apparently self-effacing into a sort of tyrant! She seems to think that being a mother justifies her doing down other people, including her stepdaughters, as you say - I cringed when she tries to stop Christine from ordering enough underwear for her trousseau.

Interesting though to see such a negative portrayal of mother love from Whipple, since there are quite a few saintly and self-sacrificing mothers in her work - including Christine in some parts of this book. (Anthea probably thinks of herself as self-sacrificing, but she is really expecting everyone else to make sacrifices for her children.)


message 36: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
And yes, with the servants, she goes from one extreme to another - early on she is scared to criticise the cook, but later on sacks her without so much as a by-your-leave!

I found it an interesting scene where the mother of Bessie's friend (sorry, his name escapes me) goes in and confronts her.


message 37: by Val (last edited Sep 30, 2018 09:47AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val | 1709 comments Johnny Spencer.

I thought marching into the nursery and saying what was going to happen to it was callous and cruel. She could at least have tried to talk about it first, to prepare the two girls a bit.


message 38: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
Val wrote: "Re the article: So growing up means forgiving your husband the odd affair, because life is hard for single mothers. Pah!"

Yes, I don't think Christine is the only character who needs to "grow up", as this article might suggest - this is surely even more the case for her husband, Nicholas!

Although quite a few things about the book annoyed me, I realised that I was still thinking about the characters some time after finishing it and I did enjoy it a lot, so I think I would still want to read more by this author.


message 39: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val | 1709 comments I think I am more a Virago customer than a Persephone one. I can see why the founders of Virago introduced a 'Whipple line', she writes rather well about attitudes I don't agree with.


Karen Just finished reading 'The Priory' and though i enjoyed it, I liked 'Someone at a Distance' more.
There are a lot of things that annoyed me too about the story line and some of the characters, but I reminded myself that the book was published in 1939 when attitudes was very different from today. This being said , Whipple touches upon subjects like women working etc and being more independent.
I'm a big fan of Persephone books and find them interesting for group discussions and book groups.
Looking forward to reading more by Dorothy Whipple soon.


Karen I'd love to join in with reading 'Fidelity' by Susan Glaspell too


Lynaia | 468 comments It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read this but wasn’t one reason that Anthea was so uncaring towards her stepdaughters after her own child was born tied to the fact that they had never really accepted and included her when she married their father. If they had been more open to her, I think she would have been fairer to them.


message 43: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val | 1709 comments The friendly overtures should have come from Anthea and her attempt was highly inappropriate. I think if a woman I didn't know turned up in my room without invitation, rolled around on my hearthrug, said 'This is cosy!' and pretty much the next time she speaks to me she is ordering me out of it, I would not be feeling either friendly or accepting.
What she should have said is something along the lines of 'I know you two are used to keeping out of your father's way up here, but I would like to get to know you, so would you please come to tea downstairs some afternoons, so that we can chat.'


message 44: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I felt she should have recognised that the young girls were bound to take a while to get used to her, especially as they didn't know her - at first it seems as if she does recognise this, and I think they go on one or two visits together, but then, as soon as she finds Nurse Pye to back her every decision, she loses interest in them and decides her own children are a much higher priority.

I don't think Victoria and Anthea would ever get on as they are like chalk and cheese! I found Victoria an interesting and amusing character, and was interested to see from the afterword that she was based on a real person who Whipple knew.


message 45: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Just finished reading 'The Priory' and though i enjoyed it, I liked 'Someone at a Distance' more.
There are a lot of things that annoyed me too about the story line and some of the characters, but ..."


Glad you enjoyed it, Karen. I agree Someone at a Distance was better - it seemed more focused and the characters were more consistent.

This book does touch on interesting topics like women working, as you say, and I thought the whole section about Christine modelling clothes and living in lodgings was interesting - a long way from the country house setting of most of the book. I couldn't see it made any sense for her to do the job in plot terms though, as she was having to live away from her child and wasn't making enough even to support herself.


message 46: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val | 1709 comments Judy wrote: "I don't think Victoria and Anthea would ever get on as they are like chalk and cheese! I found Victoria an interesting and amusing character, and was interested to see from the afterword that she was based on a real person who Whipple knew."
I agree with you Judy, they are very different. Victoria is quite confrontational, which may come from years of dealing with her brother, and her attitude to Anthea could be seen as rude.


message 47: by Val (last edited Oct 02, 2018 02:47AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val | 1709 comments I was wondering why anyone bought Victoria's paintings, so did a quick search of her 'contemporaries'.
Some 1930s(ish) landscapes:
https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/s...
https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/v...
https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/v...
http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com/...

Something tells me Dorothy Whipple was not that keen on the style.


Karen Judy wrote: "Karen wrote: "Just finished reading 'The Priory' and though i enjoyed it, I liked 'Someone at a Distance' more.
There are a lot of things that annoyed me too about the story line and some of the ch..."
Hi Judy , I think High Wages by Dorothy Whipple may be a good one for a buddy read in the future


message 49: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
Val wrote: "I was wondering why anyone bought Victoria's paintings, so did a quick search of her 'contemporaries'.
Some 1930s(ish) landscapes:
https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/s......"

Thanks for this, Val - I'd been wondering what Victoria's paintings were like! I really like some of these "contemporaries", even if Whipple didn't.


Karen At the end Penelope isn't mentioned, I don't think things will be the same again between her and Christine.
I thought Penelope was quite selfish trying to keep baby Angela away from Christine.
Penelope said that she thought she was even more careful in looking after Angela than Christine, yet she leaves her to Hester who puts the baby in her pram wearing wet clothes.


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