Alice Ashley on a Garden Seat by Donald Chisholm Towner, 1937 © Burgh House and Hampstead Museum
PREFACE BY NINA BAWDEN
'A very good novel indeed about the fragility and also the tenacity of love' commented the Spectator about this 1953 novel by Dorothy Whipple, which was ignored fifty years ago because 'editors are going mad for action and passion' (as she was told by her publisher). But this last novel by a writer whose books had previously been bestsellers is outstandingly good by any standards. Apparently 'a fairly ordinary tale about the destruction of a happy marriage' (Nina Bawden in the Preface) yet 'it makes compulsive reading' in its description of an ordinary family ('Ellen was that unfashionable creature, a happy housewife') struck by disaster when the husband, in a moment of weak, mid-life vanity, runs off with a French girl. Dorothy Whipple is a superb stylist, with a calm intelligence in the tradition of Mrs Gaskell (both wrote in the Midlands and had similar preoccupations). 'The prose is simple, the psychology spot on' said the Telegraph, and John Sandoe Books commented: 'We have all delighted in this unjustly forgotten novel; it is well written and compelling.'
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The 1950s linen furnishing fabric by Ashley Havinden is based on drawings done in the 1930s when Ellen furnished her house; it combines a menacing feel with a hint of the domestic.