Young Anne by Dorothy Whipple

Dorothy Whipple is one of those twentieth century writers, often female, whose work was at risk of disappearing into the place where neglected writers’ books go: library stacks, second-hand shops, recycling bins? But she has been rescued and restored by Persephone Books and gained justified popularity through word of mouth and bloggers’ admiration.

Young Anne was her first novel and some of it may have been based on her early life. But it is all her own writing with its strong storyline pulling you forward from the infant Anne to the moment when she resolves a dilemma about her future. How has she gained this maturity? Who were her guides?

Young Anne

Young Anne was born in a northern town at the end of the nineteenth century. She lives with her two parents and two brothers. Anne is the youngest. Two things determine her early life: her gender and the comparative lack of money in the family. Her father’s strictness and insistence that things are done right and her mother’s casual lack of interest in her children mean that Anne lives a restricted life with little encouragement. She is bright, independent and her only support at home is the housemaid Emily. 

The first school she attends is closed suddenly when one of the teachers dies of starvation. Anne is then sent to a convent to have discipline instilled in her. She comes to enjoy the comforts and security of the nuns and her friends but rejects Catholicism.

Soon after she leaves school her father dies and her mother moves away to become a permanent guest in other people’s homes. Anne becomes dependent upon Great Aunt Orchard, a fearsome figure who regards Anne as fortunate to be living under her roof, although she pays for this by having to darn her combinations (already 50 years old) and seek her permission for everything. Fortunately Emily transfers to the household as well. 

Anne had a youthful love affair with George Yates, but abruptly ended it when a poisonous cousin suggested her parents had to marry. This produces a crisis in Anne for she now believes her father to have been a hypocrite. Moreover intimate physical relations revolt and horrify her.

When the first world war comes George enlists and Anne gets a job in a Medical Office during the war and marries the chief administrator. He is much older. When peace comes she has nothing much to occupy herself and becomes very bored, despite Richard’s gift of a fancy new fiat car. A crisis comes when George returns and she is torn between her old feelings for him, the excitement of a passionate affair, and what she has with Richard. The turning point is her treatment of Emily, faithful but unable to help her. When Anne sees she could have lost her lifelong friend she pays attention to her sense of what is right.

Dorothy Whipple

Dorothy Whipple

Born in Blackburn, Lancashire in 1893, Dorothy Whipple wrote 8 novels and several collections of short stories. She was popular between the wars. Two of her novels were made into films in the 1940s. But she gradually fell out of favour until Persephone Books restored her reputation and recommended her to new readers. She died in 1966

The new edition has an excellent preface by Lucy Mangan. She points out how Dorothy Whipple’s prose is easy to read, yet how she has depth to her novels, always pointing to the difference between the lives of men and women in her writing. HeavenAli, in her review, notes how all characters are well-rounded. In this novel there are several horrors, Great Aunt Orchard, the poisonous cousin and Muriel Yates a childhood friend. The father is dire as well. We are under no illusion that it is Emily who provides the greatest support for young Anne and the strong moral sense of Anne herself that allows her to develop into a mature young woman.

Summer Flowers by Sundown, silk and linen furnishing fabric. Endpaper

Young Anne by Dorothy Whipple, first published in 1927. I used the edition published in 2018 by Persephone. 292 pp

Other posts about Dorothy Whipple’s Novels

They were Sisters  (May 2017)

Greenbanks  (October 2013)

Young Anne  on HeavenAli’s blog

4 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading, Reviews

4 Responses to Young Anne by Dorothy Whipple

  1. It’s interesting to read about this, Whipple’s first novel, to see how her writing career began. I’ve only read a couple of her later books, The Priory and Someone at a Distance, both of which I would recommend (especially the latter). I find her novels very absorbing, in a traditional, almost old-fashioned way. As you say, it’s heartening to see how the Persephone reissues have rekindled an interest in this author’s work.

    • Caroline

      Dorothy Whipple is an author to savour I think. I especially have enjoyed They Were Sisters and Greenbanks. She writes such good stories around her themes. I agree, that they are almost traditional, and that is part of their charm. Good phrase. Enjoy your exploration of her work.
      Caroline

  2. I am so pleased you have reviewed this – I don’t know Dorothy Whipple’s novels at all and am delighted to have come across them. I love Persephone books and the shop itself – I recently bought and read ‘A Woman’s Place 1910-1975’ that I saw in the shop – a fascinating social history by Ruth Adam. I think I need to go into Persephone Books this week and buy something by Dorothy Whipple now – thanks so much for alerting me to her!

    • Caroline

      … And if you have been introduced to a new author, then my work is done! Seriously, it is a great pleasure to introduce readers to new books. Persephone Books do that too, and I envy you being able to drop in their shop. I used to work nearby, but now I have to order my copies, or make a special trip when I am in London. Enjoy Dorothy Whipple, and let us know how you get on with her.
      Thanks for your comment.
      Caroline

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