Monday, March 19, 2012
Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple
The Ashton's saga is a scaled-down version but several of the storylines from Downton Abbey are recognizable. An older generation holding steadfast to tradition, a younger set trying to break free from the mold, letters calling young men to war and bandage classes for women. And if men aren't always having the last word these days, society still dictates conscience and behaviour to quite a degree.
Louisa and her philandering husband, Robert, are parents to adult children who still run to them for advice on how to remove themselves from sticky situations. With so many dynamics involving the core family, respective spouses and offspring they provide enough fodder for their own lively soap opera. Whipple's restraint prevents Greenbanks from running to high drama but successfully brings the reader to a state of anticipation wondering how each event will conclude.
Affairs, illegitimacy, the female struggle for independance, World War I, money woes, sly financial dealings and yes, even a dishy vicar keep Louisa from growing too complacent about her family and staff. Her one constant is granddaughter, Rachel, who prefers the spare room at Greenbanks to her bedroom at home. And who could blame her with a father who scoffs at the idea of women filling their heads with knowledge. I silently egged her on through each opportunity to achieve fulfillment and laughed when she used putty to fill the holes in her desk in an attempt at dentistry.
Greenbanks is a thoroughly enjoyable read, a cosy book. My only issue with it came at the very end when a few words into the afterword I realized it wasn't the next chapter! Surely an author I adore wouldn't abandon me right then and there, wondering about the impact of a certain character's absence at the breakfast table? But she did. I'm not overly ticked about it or anything, life goes on...which is the point Dorothy Whipple was making with this sort of ending. I would like to think happily ever after comes into it but I'm not so sure.