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The Priory

by Dorothy Whipple
Persephone book no:

39 40 41


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AFTERWORD BY DAVID CONVILLE
536pp
ISBN 9781903155301

The setting for The Priory is Saunby Priory, a large house somewhere in England which has seen better times: its 'West Front, built in the thirteenth century for the service of God and the poor, towered above the house that had been raised alongside from its ruins, from its very stones. And because no light showed from any window here, the stranger, visiting Saunby at this hour, would have concluded that the house was empty. But he would have been wrong. There were many people within.'

This sentence is typical of the opening of a Dorothy Whipple novel. Gently, deceptively gently, but straightforwardly, it sets the scene and draws the reader in. 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. Whipple is not quite Jane Austen class but she understands as well as Austen the enormous effects of apparently minor social adjustments… Christine is a true heroine: vulnerable, valient, appealing, and the portrait of her selfless maternal preoccupation, done without sentiment and utterly credible, is one of the best I have ever come across. The final triumph of love over adversity is described with a benevolent panache which left me feeling heartened about human nature... A delightful, well-written and clever book.'

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Endpaper

The endpapers are taken from 'Wychwood', a 1939 screen - printed satin furnishing fabric designed by Noldi Soland for Helios; the pattern has an appropriately rural simplicity.

Picture Caption

'Kitchen Scene in the Beverley Arms' 1929, FW Elwell ©  FW Elwell Estate/National Trust, Nunnington Hall


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