As you have certainly discerned by now, I am not writing a “book review” blog. Although I read books all the time, I don’t usually feel the need to share with the world what specific tomes I am reading or have enjoyed reading. I think this is why I have never joined a book club. When I read, it is my escape, for my pleasure, for my imagination–it’s personal. I don’t want to get together with a group of random people and hash over the minute details, the symbolism or perhaps the flaws of a book I am enjoying. Not for me. All that being said, ironically, my husband and I are currently reading the same book together, “Unbroken” and I am enjoying the experience as we have never done this before. It reminds me of a time a few years ago when a girlfriend and I both read “Gone With the Wind” together. She lives a few hours away from me but it was fun getting on the phone and exclaiming together over Scarlett’s exploits (oh that woman was a piece of work! however, I loved her more in the book than I ever did in the movie). Now that I would be willing to do again.
The reason behind today’s post is because I have been mesmerized by Dorothy Whipple (again!) and she is the one writer that makes me want to shout to the world, “READ HER!”. The first Dorothy Whipple novel I read was “Someone At a Distance”. Hook, line and sinker! The 20th Century’s answer to Jane Austen (I am not alone in thinking this). This time I took a tumble-down the rabbit hole with the Hunters and the Lockwoods in her novel, “Because of the Lockwoods”.
The novel starts with an introduction to most of the key players of this novel. The Lockwoods and the Hunters are neighbors in a well-to-do, posh neighborhood. Socio-economic equals. However, Mr. Hunter has died, leaving behind his wife, two daughters and a son–and without enough income to keep their family home. Mrs. Hunter, although a gentle soul, never seems able to rise to accept the challenge of her new head-of-household status. She quickly becomes overwhelmed with the “papers” her husband has left to sort through. Mrs. Lockwood condescendingly takes it upon herself to engage her lawyer husband as pro-bono benefactor for the Hunter family. He accepts the role with absolute resentment. And since he is a greedy, selfish man, he deceitfully takes advantage of an “opportunity” to further his wealth while forcing the Hunters to have to move to a more humble home and neighborhood. As time marches on, Mrs. Lockwood continues to throw a few “friendship” crumbs at Mrs. Hunter–a social visit here, a tea invite there–which Mrs. Hunter hungrily accepts not recognizing this is not a true friendship.
Emerging from this backdrop of adult dysfunction is Thea, the youngest Hunter child. She is very young when the story starts and quietly watches–everything. She watches how her mother is patronized by Mrs. Lockwood. She watches and senses how Mr. Lockwood begrudgingly “helps” her family. She struggles with her feelings of shame and anger over the injustices her family has suffered “because of” the Lockwoods. And while she has quietly watched every member of her family suffer some sort of indignity at the hands of the Lockwoods, she resolves not to become a victim too.
While Thea is coming of age, and coming to terms with her realities, a new man appears on the scene, Oliver. He is an energetic entrepreneur who is absolutely thrilled to have moved his family to Thea’s street–the same street that meant shame for the Hunters means progress and hope for the Reades. And the minute Oliver first sees Thea, he is a goner. However, she wants nothing to do with him. Her only goal is life is to get out of the clutches of the Lockwoods.
Opportunity presents itself. She finds herself in France, teaching English at a boarding school. And while it is a dream realized, she is still in the shadows of the Lockwoods–their girls are boarding in the same school. Before you know it, an innocent first love experience is turned into a sensationalized scandal, and Thea finds herself heart-broken and shipped back home not knowing some positive changes have happened in her absence thanks to Oliver. And not realizing she holds the very key that can change all their lives for the better and take the Lockwoods down once and for all. But is revenge always as sweet as it sounds?
AND THAT’S ALL I’M SAYIN’ ‘BOUT THAT!
This book was so enjoyable that, once finished, I immediately put in order at Persephone books for two more of Whipple’s novels since they are hard to find through the library. Once “Unbroken” is finished, I will be ready to get “whippled” again!