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Greenbanks Paperback – 20 Oct 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Persephone Books Ltd (20 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903155851
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903155851
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 14 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Greenbanks (1932) chronicles the Ashton family's joys and sorrows before and after the First World War: marital infidelity, illegitimate children, divorce, autocratic parents and rebellious offspring, with the loving relationship between Louisa and her granddaughter Rachel at the book's core.


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Format: Paperback
Like another of Dorothy Whipple's novels, The Priory, Greenbanks turns a property into a character, and the Greenbanks of this novel is the site for all of the book's main twists and developments.

Louisa is a devoted mother and grandmother, who's stood by and supported her husband and children whether through right or wrong. She shows herself to be a loyal, kind and devoted woman, who repeatedly ends up putting herself out for others, sacrificing her wants, and considering the needs of others. But before you think she's a nauseating do-gooder, Louisa isn't at all. Hers is simply a tale of kindness winning out.

With a family tree of philanderers, money grabbers and big heads, Louisa has quietly looked out for the underdog. And we watch as she nurtures former neighbour Kate, who was shunned by the village for having had an illegitimate child as a teenager. And we watch as Louisa provides a home for her free-spirited granddaughter Rachel, one that the girl is denied by her own parents due to her father's pig-headedness.

These are frequent traits in a Whipple novel - women picking up the pieces after men squander their money, or men bring shame on a family, or find other selfish ways to ruin a good woman. But at the same time, these novels don't hate men - they are also filled with kind and sensitive men, and there are plenty of loathsome female characters to choose from in a Whipple novel.
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Format: Paperback
What a wonderful and charming book this is. Written in 1932, Greenbanks tells the story of the Ashton family spanning from around 1910 to 1925. It is centered around the house, Greenbanks, in the Lancashire village of Elton, and revolves mainly around Louisa Ashton, Mother and Grandmother. Louisa has five (very different) children who have all started to make their own way in the world too and so Louisa dotes on her 4 year old Granddaughter, Rachel. Greenbanks may be a lovely, beautifully written book about a family in a grand old house but there is plenty of room for sibling rivalry, illegitimate births, divorce, tyranical fathers and heartache. In fact all these are done so well that I was in awe of how well Whipple understood human emotion such as depression, jealousy, shame and love.

The book is set at during the early part of the last century when ideas and ideals are shifting and in particular Whipple explores the changing roles of women at this time. Louisa is the gentle, kind head of Greenbanks (after her philandering husband dies) but her daughters are exploring new territories that are still thought of as a huge embarassment to the gossiping folks of Elton. Daughters Letty and Laura both carving out new paths for themselves and lodger Kate Barlow still lives the shame and stigma of having an illegitimate child all those years ago. Granddaughter Rachel, much to her Father Ambrose's profound disappointment, is intelligent and is desperate to continue her studies at University when she grows up, but Ambrose wants a dutiful daughter who will greet him at the door and "take his hat".
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Format: Paperback
A few months ago, at a library talk, the Persephone Books reissue of Greenbanks was mentioned, and the delight in the air was tangible.

Some had read and loved the book, and all were thrilled at the prospect of another Whipple novel reappearing.

And now I have been to Greenbanks.

While I was there, I watched the story of an extended family, and the story of their family home, from the years before the Great War, through the years of that war, and into the years that followed.

I came to understand their lives, their characters, their relationships, their hopes, their regrets, their emotions ...

Dorothy Whipple illuminated their lives quite perfectly, and I was completely captivated.

At the centre of the story is Louisa Ashton, a woman raised with Victorian values and who has found great happiness raising her family and running her home.

And at first her life seemed quite idyllic. The story opened on Christmas day, snow had fallen, and Louisa's grown children and grandchildren had all gathered at Greenbanks for the festivities.

But I soon saw that Louisa's life wasn't perfect. It was real. Louisa loved and supported her family, but they sometimes took that for granted. Her husband was charming, but he was also a philanderer. Her children were caught up with their own lives.

Louisa doted on Rachel, her youngest granddaughter. As she grew Rachel spent much of her time at Greenbanks with her grandmother, and the two formed the closest of bonds.

Rachel's own home was less happy. Her father, Ambrose, was rigid and controlling, and quite unable to understand that others might not see things in the same way that he did.
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Format: Hardcover
A lovely Dorothy Whipple, published in 1932 and alas, difficult to get hold of. (What a pity it hasn't been re-published by Persephone but maybe they will get around to it eventually. I'd have chosen it over Whipple's High Wages which they are publishing later this year.)
Louisa is the mother of a large, grown-up family and this is the rambling tale of their vicissitudes from just before WW1 into the 1920s: marital infidelity, illegitimate babies, divorce, autocratic parents and rebellious off-spring. As ever, Whipple's characters are utterly convincing; Louisa is a loving matriarch, (only 56 at the start of the book!) shockable but unshakeable; there is Kate, the embittered unmarried mother, rendered frigid by public opinion; Ambrose, pompous and overbearing, wanting to be loved but never understanding why he isn't lovable; and his bored wife Letty, who married at a time when there few options for women. Whipple does a brilliant job showing how WW1 changes their lives and attitudes: 'The war had blown most people's ideas sky-high, and the pieces had not yet come down. When they did come down, they would never fit together again as they had done before the war.'
Greenbanks is the name of Louisa's solid, old-fashioned family house. And I love the way Whipple describes domestic interiors: a posy of flowers in a lustre jug, an embroidered bedspread. This is one of her best, highly recommended.
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