Monday, January 18, 2010
High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
If you are familiar with Persephone Books then you know the brilliance of Dorothy Whipple. She has worked her magic once again with High Wages, I loved this book! My heart ached for Jane Carter, still in her teens, leaving the family home after her father passes away, to strike out on her own. She left behind a stepmother and 'those children', an image of Cinderella did pass through my thoughts at one point. Being accepted for work at Chadwick's, a fabric and haberdashery shop was a dream come true for Jane. Sharing a room with another employee and being served various forms of offal for dinner by Mrs Chadwick, while she ate fine cuts with her husband upstairs, rarely brought about a complaint from Jane. She was independent and learning more every day about how to sell to customers in the shop. Jane catches on quickly and has a knack for fashion and design, quickly making herself popular with customers and indispensable to Mr Chadwick. Mrs Greenwood is one of those customers who doesn't mind utilizing Jane's way with a ribbon but won't let her forget that she's just a shop girl. No where near close enough in station to socialize with her pampered daughter, Sylvia, or the young men in her circle. At one of the social events of the year, The Hospital Ball, Jane is kindly treated to tickets by the warm and generous Mrs Briggs. Again, like Cinderella, Jane fashions an outfit she's absolutely giddy about and attracts the eye of some handsome young men. Mrs Greenwood is livid and with her booming voice and looks of disgust, she makes Jane feel horrible. But not for long, after all, what crime has she committed? When she's hauled up on the proverbial carpet by Mr Chadwick for upsetting the town know-it-all, Jane defends herself with a spirit that had me cheering her on with a smile on my face. That should give you a pretty good idea of what you're in for with this wonderful story. I despair for anyone who isn't interested in where this story leads. Dorothy Whipple has created a perfect cast of characters with this book, bringing forth feelings of loathing, sympathy, hope, dread and romance. The sign of a good book is one that has me dying to complete my list of things to do so that I can make a pot of tea and find out what's going to happen next. High Wages is definitely one of those books!