Another tasty tale by Dorothy Whipple to remove me from the nightmare of real life, where self-driving cars are unleashed to run red lights near unsuspecting pedestrians of this city and jaw-dropping Cabinet picks are made by the president-elect. Thanks to Interlibrary Loan, I got this volume sent here from Omaha, Nebraska, where it appears to be in such pristine condition that I suspect no one has ever touched it there.
First sentence(s) gold: “Mrs Lockwood decided to invite Mrs Hunter and her children to Oakfield for New Year’s Eve. It would be one way of getting the food eaten up.” In this first burst, the smug self-congratulatory donation of charity from Lockwood to Hunter is laid out, the rich neighbor taking pity on the widow who’d been torn from her own wealth when her husband died and left their affairs in a sorry state. It turns out that Mr Lockwood swindled the widow Hunter out of some property when he lied about a debt not having been repaid to him. Of course this all comes out later, and contributes to the Lockwood’s necessary downfall. But first, we see the poverty of the Hunters, oldest daughter Molly put out to pasture as a governess which she hates, son Martin installed in a poor-paying position at a bank, and youngest daughter Thea boldly making her own way, pushing herself into France as a teacher but then being sent home in pseudo-disgrace after being caught kissing a French man in a field. Oliver Reade is a self-made man who loves Thea and who rescues her sister Molly from teaching, putting her in a bakery where she thrives. Reade starts producing the headache powders that Mrs Hunter had the recipe for, hiring Thea to do office work as an escape from her supposed downfall. Of course Thea eventually sees that she loves Oliver, and of course the Lockwoods tumble down in their own disgrace. Thea rescues Mr Lockwood from suicide, strangely, perhaps as a way to prolong their downfall.
Charlotte Brontë’s Villette is referenced, and rightfully so, because the French teaching story line is obviously influenced highly from that book.