It's a tragedy that Dorothy Whipple isn't more well known, because all of her books are superbly crafted portrayals of people so real you could almost reach into the pages and touch them. Like Jane Austen, she had that remarkable skill of being able to breathe life into her words, managing to create characters and situations that are completely relatable to everyday life, effortlessly transcending time, age and social status. Everyone knows somebody like the characters in this book; everyone can relate to some extent with the events that happen; because of this, you genuinely care for the people this novel is centred around; you want them to be happy, you want it all to work out; you understand their hopes, their fears, and their dreams, and this is what makes The Priory a page turner of the most literal kind.
The Priory concerns the Marwood family and their servants, who live in The Priory of the title, and the other people that over the course of the novel come into their lives and change them, for the worse or the better. They are very ordinary people; no one does anything particularly exciting, or special, or ground breaking, but it is because of this that their lives are so engrossing. They are just ordinary people, like us, with their own faults and failures, and how they choose to live their lives and deal with the situations that come their way is mainly the concern of this wonderful, character driven novel. It is set in 1939, just before the outbreak of WWII, and the fear and tension underneath the surface of this novel, of a world about to change, is not so different from today. We might not have an army of servants behind our own green baize doors any more, but take away the period detail and you will find a timeless story that cannot fail to touch you and leave you wanting far more pages to turn that those it contains. Absolutely marvellous.