Dorothy Whipple’s key theme is `Live and Let Live’. And what she describes throughout her short stories are people, and particularly parents, who defy this maxim. For this reason her work is timeless, like all great writing. It is irrelevant that Dorothy Whipple’s novels were set in an era when middle-class women expected to have a maid; when fish knives were used for eating fish; when children did what they were told. The moral universe she creates has not changed: there are bullies in every part of society; people try their best but often fail; they would like to be unselfish but sometimes are greedy. Like George Eliot, like Mrs Gaskell, like EM Forster, Dorothy Whipple describes men and women in their social milieu, which in her case is the inter-war period, and shows them being all- too human. But her books are not nostalgia reads either, any more than reading George Eliot or Forster is a nostalgia read, nor are they old-fashioned or simplistic. Her prose, it is true, is pure, uncluttered, straightforward, pared down to the bone and never labours the point; her subtlety is the reason why so many people – generally those who have not read her – overlook her excellence.
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