Tuesday, May 4, 2010

They Were Sisters

 (endpaper of the Persephone edition of They Were Sisters)

Persephone Reading Week has begun! This is all set to be a wonderful reading event hosted by Claire at Paperback Reader and Verity at  The B Files  from May 3 to 9. 

Most Persephone readers would say that Dorothy Whipple's best novel is Someone at a Distance, however, my choice would be They Were Sisters (1943). It was my first experience with Whipple and it still remains my favourite even after having read most of her books. I think my next favourite would be Because of the Lockwoods (reviewed here) which is still out of print. They Were Sisters is a beautiful novel that follows the lives of three sisters who have three very different husbands. Three different choices and thus three different lives. Lucy marries William, her best friend and has a happy and peaceful life though without children. Vera marries Brian, a boring man who worships her but finally drives her to have extramarital affairs. Charlotte marries Geoffery, a horrible bully who emotionally abuses her turning her into a depressed alcoholic. The children of Vera and Charlotte soon pay the price for their parents' unhappy marriages and Lucy becomes the only adult they can depend on.

Though this is a domestic story, it's a page-turner. I couldn't stop turning the pages to find out what happened next in the sisters' lives. Whipple, as usual, does a fabulous job of turning a story about ordinary lives into a gripping and compelling narrative. I didn't want it to end! Although it was written in 1943, the human emotions, trials and tribulations of her protagonists are so contemporary and could still happen today.

Whipple's writing is engrossing plus it feels so effortless and that's exactly what I love about her style. Her prose is pitch perfect and beautiful in its simplicity. This is a wonderful read that I can't recommend highly enough.

11 comments:

  1. I've read Because of the lockwoods! Definitely one that should be brought back into circulation. Glad you enjoyed your Whipple.

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  2. They Were Sisters was one of the first reviews I posted on my blog and my second Whipple (eek - that has made me realise that it's been over a year since I've read any of her books!) It is definitely a page-turner; Whipple evokes human emotion so very well.

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  3. I still haven't read any Whipple. I have a copy of Someone at a Distance waiting for me (I was clearly persuaded by all those who claimed it was her best book) but am frankly more intrigued by the sounds of this one!

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  4. Wow! I loved your review of this book. I wrote down the title, because I really want to read this one. I have to find out what happens to the sisters in the end. Sounds like gripping stuff! Thanks!

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  5. I'm so excited to be participating in Persephone Reading Week! I loved your review - I can't wait to read more Whipple myself.

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  6. I loved this too! Such a brilliant book, and a fantastic review of it, to boot! My favourite Persephone is Greenbanks but this one follows closely behind...it's such a powerful and emotive story.

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  7. I think I liked They Were Sisters better than Someone at a Distance as well. What a pageturner!

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  8. I find that the "first" book that I read by an author often remains my favourite, even when I might have found another book its equal but without that warm, nostagic "advantage" that the "first exposure" retains. I need to read more Whipple novels to test this theory in relation to her books though!

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  9. I've yet to read any Whipple, and more and more I feel that I'm missing out. Perhaps this will be my introduction.

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  10. Loved your review of The Lockwoods, that's one of two Whipples that I haven't yet managed to read. When I do eventually track it down, I hope it's as lovely an edition as yours ... what wonderful endpapers.
    So hard to decide on a favourite Whipple. Like Rachel, I loved Greenbanks, and it's very hard to choose between Mr Knight and Someone at a Distance.

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  11. This is now one of my favorite books ever. Thanks for introducing me to Dorothy Whipple. :)

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