Sunday, February 27, 2011

More from The Closed Door and Other Stories...

Try as I might, there is absolutely no choosing a clear favourite amongst this collection of short stories.  The Closed Door and Other Stories by the sublime Dorothy Whipple exceeded all my expectations and I highly recommend it! 

Picking up where I left off...

Family Crisis - Mr Parker prides himself on being respected and over the course of time becomes an unbearable snob.  No expense is spared in elevating his son, Alec, to a position in a law firm.  His daughter, Margaret, is frustratingly kept at home to hone her domestic skills and cater to her lazy mother.  When an event shocks this family to their very core, Mr Parker comes to realize that those he has held in the highest esteem were not perhaps the ones who deserved his attention most.

After Tea - This story had me cheering at the end!  In an all too familiar scene, Christine, shares the bulk of the domestic duties with the maid.  In fact, the maid is better off as she is paid and allowed time off.  Christine is desperate to attend free lectures at the university but her parents put her off.  When some information comes to light, Christine finds the strength to make a stand and it is sheer triumph!

Wednesday - This was the most heartbreaking story in the collection.  Mrs Bulford, caught in a messy divorce, is now reduced to waiting at the gate to see her children.  Her former husband has a new wife and in anguish but understanding she hears her younger children refer to this woman as 'Mumsie'.  Catherine, at thirteen, quietly turns away from her mother's attempts at affection, old enough to know what has gone on.  I just may need a tissue if I go on any longer!

Summer Holiday - Rose was the nicest nurse-maid the family had ever had.  In fact, she was treated almost as one of the family.  There are twins, Roger and Charles, but it is Ellie and her big sister who never seem to leave Rose alone for a moment.  They adore her beau, Frank, and love to sit near him when he comes for visits.  The family takes a vacation at the seaside where they stay at Mrs Simpson's rooming house.  Another resident, a flashy Mr Salter, quickly takes a shine to Rose but the young sisters are ill at ease around him.  This holiday won't soon be forgotten but not because of the sun, surf and ice cream!

Saturday Afternoon - Mrs Thorpe and daughter, Muriel, love Saturday afternoons when Mr Thorpe leaves the house to attend his club or do goodness knows what else.  They settle in the garden, eat chocolates and knit or read.  But one afternoon there is a knock on the door and it is a policeman asking for Mr Thorpe.  Saturday afternoons may never be the same again!

Cover - Harry Smith married his sweetheart, Meg Saunders.  Nothing unusual in that but considering what Meg got up to while Harry was away fighting in the war...well, that takes a certain fellow.  A chance to leave the village and escape gossip is a most welcome opportunity but despite new beginnings and a new friendship the ending is a poignant one.

This collection was the perfect companion for Persephone Reading Weekend.  Each story was fascinating and will no doubt be pulled off of my shelf again and again.  I was swept back to another era and marvelled at how I could so enjoy stories where young women are kept at home to cook and clean while their spirits long to soar.  Such is the skill with which Dorothy Whipple tells a story I suppose. 

I had to work on Saturday and today I am losing the fight against a head cold but Persephone Reading Weekend has definitely made this weekend sparkle for me.  Thanks to everyone who participated for your entertaining and thought-provoking posts and most of all to Verity and Claire for their efforts in hosting this event yet again! 

Hosted by Verity and Claire


  1. I'm not a short story girl, but these sound so intriguing, I may have to succumb. (sp?)

    By the way, is that Fred and Barbara? Double Indemnity?

  2. I really like short stories. I feel I am getting real value for my money!!!! this collection sounds so good.

  3. Thank you Darlene for your entertaining and inspiring posts!
    Sublime does seem to be the perfect word to describe Whipple. I love 'High Wages' so far and I am definately going to get a copy of the short stories you reviewed. I like the sound of 'After Tea'.
    I love the photograph by the way. The elegant Barbara Stanwick?

  4. Lovely, Darlene.

    I see myself indulging in this volume in the very near future once the weekend has fully wound down and not so frenetic for me. I look forward to it and to discussing them with you once I do.

  5. This really does have to be one of my favorite Persephones. Though I did want to whap Harry at the end! Hope you're feeling better today.

    K x

  6. Susan, Before reading Panter-Downes wartime short stories I felt as you do. Now I think it's just a matter of finding the right volume. And yes, I think it is Fred and Barbara!

    Mystica, They are wonderful and even though the stories are short they really pack a punch!

    Cristina, Oh I loved Ater Tea! It was only a few pages long but so riveting! And I do believe that is the beautiful Barbara in the photo.

    Paperback Reader, The weekend format was fantastic and a great idea! At first I thought it would fly by all too soon but there was so much enthusiasm from so many participants that I fear a week of it would burn us all out!

    This volume of short stories is sheer Whipple bliss, Claire!

    Kristina, Oh yes, Harry deserved a good, hard whap all right! Gets my blood boiling again just thinking about it. It's such a nice feeling to pull a book off of your shelf and find out it's a gem isn't glad you loved it!

    And thank you, I'm hanging in there with the help of echinacea.

  7. I may have to get this book for the next Persephone Weekend. It would have been nice to have broken the weekend up with some short stories. These sound adorable. After Tea really intrigued me.

  8. I loved this volume so much, not least because the first short story was almost a novella!

  9. Vivienne, I was really struck by how much emotion DW can evoke in a story only a few pages long. After Tea being a perfect example! This is the perfect collection for a Persephone Reading Weekend and I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

    verity, I wonder how long it took DW to write some of the stories? They read so easily and are so tidy that it seems like they must have wrote themselves but we know that's not true!

  10. Oh wasn't Wednesday just HEARTBREAKING?!

    Great summary Darlene, and sorry you are fighting a cold...hope you feel better very quickly!

  11. I'm not a short story person at all, just when I'm getting in to a story and want to know more about the characters, it ends! But these sound excellent examples of the short story genre.
    Loving Miss Buncle by the way, what a gal!
    Margaret P

  12. I am a recent convert to short stories, and this sounds just up my street!

    It is now on the wish list!

  13. bookssnob, That is definitely one in the collection I can't get out of my mind. That poor woman!

    Margaret, Oh they are and don't you worry, DW gives you quite the roller coaster ride in just a few pages. I am so looking forward to reading Miss Buncle, glad you're enjoying it!

    josbookjourney, Buy it, buy it, buy it! Glad I was able to tempt you.