They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple

I read a lot, although time and time again I’m reminded that I’m not well read. There are so many authors that I have omitted from my reading repertoire either through genre prejudices, preconceived notions or just plain ignorance. Dorothy Whipple is an example of the latter. Thanks to Ali at for enlightening me and introducing me to this delightful author and her terrific body of work!

I had a difficult time finding a copy of any her novels through my usual sources so I ended up buying a copy through Whipple’s novels have been reissued through Persephone Books in the UK, a terrific source for women’s fiction of the 20th century. I encourage you to click on the link above and give their website a look-see. I’m hoping to make a few purchases before the year is through!

“They Were Sisters” was recommended as a good place to start as a new reader to Dorothy Whipple and I must say it has wetted my appetite to now read everything she’s written.
What seems in description to be a simple story on the surface is anything but under the capable hands of Whipple. During the 30’s and 40’s, in a time when middle-class women were still obligated to attach themselves to a man for their well-being, it’s interesting to see how the personalities of Lucy, Vera and Charlotte, the three sisters in the story, caused them to pick the men they married and what the effect those choices had on their lives.

When their mother died, Lucy, being a bit older than the other two girls, took over the role of woman of the house, helping her father with the house and her younger siblings. As a result Charlotte and Vera don’t treat Lucy as a peer but more as a parent who they resent and mock for her adult behavior. It’s a sign of the times that there were two brothers in the family but they were not given any responsibilities, and were so wild, that their father gave them a lump sum of money and shipped them off to Canada. As a result they don’t play much of a role in the story.

Charlotte is very insecure and falls in love with a bully, who domineers and abuses her throughout her marriage. Vera is a beautiful, narcissist who marries for money, not love, and as a result is tired of her husband and seeks comfort through her friendships with other men. And then we have Lucy, who marries a man who is companionable and steady. Lucy continues to play the role of nurturer and tries her hardest to stay close to her sisters even though they aren’t as keen on the idea as she would like.

Masterfully telling the story of the sisters as they move through the challenges of adulthood, Whipple writes a novel that is difficult to put down. I can’t wait to read another of her novels very soon!

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7 thoughts on “They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple

  1. I am so glad you liked the novel. I love Dorothy Whipple – and of the ones currently published by Persephone books only have one left to read.
    Persephone books are beautiful – I am a bit addicted to them having over 40 of them now.

    • That’s great! Thanks so much for leading me to Dorothy Whipple and Persephone books! Which author would you recommend I try next? Besides another Whipple of course!

      • There are two Frabces Hodgson Burnett novels published by Persephone which are lovely, also The D E Stevenson novels Miss Buncle and Miss Buncle Married, they are rather cosier than Whipple – but I loved them. I also loved the two Monica Dickens novels Mariana, and The Winds of Heaven. Also Marghanita Laski is good – I have read 2 of hers published by Persephone – although there is another I’ve not read too. Winifred Watson’s Miss Pettigrew Lives for a day is lovely – a bit frothy and rather cosy too – but great comfort reading and is often the first Persephone book for many people. I thought the Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes wonderful too.

      • Thanks so much for this great list! I’m excited to discover some more great woman authors. I have to say I also love the heft and feel of the Persephone books themselves 🙂

  2. Pingback: I love getting mail! | jottingswithjasmine

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