It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Persephone Books. Their books have brought me untold literary pleasure for nearly a decade now, and introduced me to many writers I would never have discovered on my own. Like so many other readers, my favourite Persephone author is Dorothy Whipple. In fact, it took only one novel, Someone at a Distance, to make me seek out everything else she wrote. So I have amassed a nice little collection of mostly dog-eared second-hand copies of DW's novels, short stories and autobiographical writing, all of which are quite marvellous.
But of all the books I read after that first encounter, the one for which I felt the most affection was High Wages, her second novel which was first published in 193o. It is set in the North West, a part of the world I know so well, and is a beautifully written story with flashes of Alan Bennett-style observation and humour, and an undercurrent of Mrs Whipple's very special brand of insight into human nature. How I loved that book, and how I wished Persephone would reprint it.
Well, my wish has now been granted.
But even more thrilling for me is the fact that I was asked to write the preface to the new edition, even though no-one at Persephone knew that this was 'my' Dorothy Whipple. I was extremely flattered and very nervous - how do you do justice to DW without gushing? As it turns out, there is so much to be said about High Wages that I didn't even have to stray into hagiography and it was a complete joy to delve into the world of dress fabrics, haberdashery and ladies' undergarments around the time of the First World War in order to understand the context of the novel.
And what is really wonderful now that the novel has been reprinted (with characteristically lovely end-papers) is that you don't have to take my word for all this. You can find out for yourself.