Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: They Knew Mr. Knight, by Dorothy Whipple

Pages: 484
Original date of publication: 1934
My edition: 2008 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: Dorothy Whipple is one of my favorite authors and you knew I was going to get around to this sometime!
How I acquired my copy: the Persephone shop, September 2011

Dorothy Whipple, how do I love thee? They Knew Mr. Knight is the story of a middle-class businessman, Thomas Blake, whose life and work becomes entwined with that of a big-time entrepreneur named Lawrence Knight—a man that the reader can quickly see is full of style but no substance. Everything Mr. Knight does revolves around money—he even looks at Thomas’s modest little house and sees things in terms of financial value. The novel follows the Blake family’s rise and fall, poignantly so in many places.

On the other hand is Thomas’s sensible wife, Celia, who shies away from the constant striving of her husband and Mr. Knight. Although written in the first person, the story is seen through the eyes of Celia Blake, probably the most likeable character in this book due to her practical common sense. Yet she’s painfully gauche at the same time, naive and trusting where maybe she shouldn’t be. So it’s painful to the reader to watch her rise and fall in tandem with her husband (along with their teenage children).

This is a novel about striving, to become bigger/better/whatever than one is, sometimes at the cost of other people. Dorothy Whipple tends to hit her reader over the head with her theme, but the story unravels itself in a very clever way. You know that Something Bad is going to befall some of these characters, but the interesting thing is how it’s all going to happen. Dorothy Whipple’s prose style is very simple and straightforward, which is why I love her books; her books tend to be long(ish) but the story moves swiftly.

This is Persephone No. 19.

1 comment:

FleurFisher said...

I fell in love with the opening of this book, but I had to put it to one side because I didn't have the time to give Dorothy Whipple the attention she so deserves.I'm delighted that you enjoyed the whole book.


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