High Wages – A Persephone Book and The King’s Speech

Yesterday I wrote about my Persephone Book obsession.  Son 2 suggested that I at least mention a Persephone book every week. I did point out that I started reading them in 2004 and good though they are, I don’t have perfect recall! So Son 2 suggests brief comments rather than full reviews. So, a few comments about Persephone books will follow as I move books to get to those shelves. I don’t want a bigger house, just more wall space.

Oh, and I finally managed to see “The King’s Speech” yesterday. A lot of ladies of a certain age have been telling me that I simply must see it, if only for


Who was brilliant in it, of course. There again, so was everything else; the script, the design, the costumes…Geoffrey Rush was excellent. Jennifer Ehle’s accent was very Australian, given that she was Elizabeth Bennett to Firth’s Darcy once upon a time.  Her reaction to finding the queen in her house was brilliant, as was Rush’s fear of confronting his wife. A really good film, and well worth seeing.

Today’s book is Persephone no. 85, High Wages by Dorothy Whipple. Set in the early part of the twentieth century, it tells the story of Jane Carter, a shop girl with ideas.

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Whipple is brilliant at creating characters. Jane could be boring and cause the reader to shout “pull yourself together”, or whimper into doing just what is expected of her. Instead she engergises those around her into action, she stands up for herself and she stands up for what she believes in. The First World War is a background that affects the male characters, but instead of just representing a slaughter ( which of course for many men, it was) it details how it widened their view, made them more aware of life and its possibilities and limitations, and affected their relationships with women. As in other the Whipple books reprinted by Persephone it does deal with love, but more in terms of how it differs, how it can change, but also how it can survive. This is not a tragic book, as it has too many other emotions of justification, loyalty, friendship and wisdom going on. When Jane does fight her corner in the shop it is cheering; when the constraints of new found wealth make people unhappy, like Mrs. Briggs, it is frustrating. The emptiness of life is chilling in some cases,while the descriptions of Jane visiting Manchester and London are memorable. One of Persephone’s best, and that is saying something…

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