I’ve decided to take a break from my reading during Persephone Reading Week and talk about one of my favorite Persephone authors—Dorothy Whipple, whose book, They Were Sisters, I'm reading right now. I’ve only read two of her books—The Priory and Someone at a Distance, both reviewed on this site, and I’ve loved both of them.
Dorothy Whipple, the daughter of an architect and one of eight children, was born in 1893, in Blackburn, Lancashire. She became a secretary in the Education office, where she met her husband, Alfred Whipple. After her marriage in 1917, Dorothy concentrated on her writing career; her first novel, Young Anne, was published by Jonathan Cape in 1927, though she'd had stories published before this. Whipple died in 1966 in Blackburn.
Whipple is far and away one of Persephone’s most popular authors; they’ve reprinted Someone at a Distance (in 1999), They Knew Mr. Knight (2000), The Priory (2003), They Were Sisters (2005), The Closed Door and Other Stories (2007), and High Wages (2009). In all, Whipple published over a dozen books between 1927 and the 1960s—novels, short stories, and autobiographies. She was one of the most popular authors of the 1930s and ‘40s; but her writing became unfashionable in the 1950s and her last book, Someone at a Distance, didn’t sell well. Two of Whipple’s novels, They Knew Mr. Knight and They Were Sisters, have been made into films (sadly, I don't believe either is available on DVD).
As Nicola Beauman wrote, “ She may not be an amazing stylist like the New Yorker writer Mollie Panter-Downes. But her prose is understated, to the point, subtle, and intensely readable.” It’s for this reason that Whipple’s books have been reprinted-and why they’re becoming so popular with a new generation of readers.