The Priory

I am a woman of few addictions. I hardly drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, I don’t like coffee or tea... But I’m not entirely without my vices – I’m rather partial to chocolate (okay, rather more than partial), I'm entirely addicted to stroking the hair on the back of my son's head...and I do really like a good book.

So when I’m recommending The Priory, you can be sure that it’s not the south London haunt of "tired and emotional" celebrities but a book by Dorothy Whipple, who is fast becoming my favourite popular at the time but only recently revived inter-war female author.

The secret of Dorothy Whipple's books is that just enough happens to propel the narrative along, but it's the effect small events have on the social balance and how these repercussions play out that makes them so engrossing.

The Priory of the title is Saunby Priory, a large house "somewhere in England" which when we first come across it is in a state of equilibrium, inhabited by the recently-widowed Major Marwood, his two daughters and their aunt.

It is the major's decision to remarry a woman much younger than him that upsets this status quo as his new bride (and the twins she subsequently bears him) set about implementing much-needed change in the household.

Like Dorothy Whipple's Greenbanks and Someone At A Distance that I have read and enjoyed before, the interplay between characters and the effect of change on the rigid pre-war social structures has a Jane Austen-like quality.

And is every bit as enjoyable.