A Year of Twentieth Century Literature: 1940-1949

This year I am reading 10 twentieth-century books which have not been made into films or television programmes but are excellent books anyway.  This month’s book needs to have been published between 1940 and 1949.

I struggled again this month.  How to choose just one book with so many fabulous authors and books – it’s almost too hard. But I did it. I went for a favourite author and chose one of her books written in the forties.

It’s Dorothy Whipple. She was very popular in her day but somehow, she got forgotten over time. And then she was rediscovered in the twenty-first century, and now her fan base is growing fast.

Her novels are all page-turners. The characters are beautifully drawn, and many of them are unforgettable. The plots draw you in, and the stories are compelling. Dorothy Whipple’s publisher is said to have written to her, ‘You have a wonderful power of taking quite ordinary people in quite unromantic surroundings, in their normal ways of life and making them live and press themselves on your readers’ minds in a way that really grips.’ I so agree with him!

Interestingly, and unlike many other twentieth-century authors, you’ll find that most of her books have been reprinted in the twenty-first century, and most of them are in Auckland library, and readily available to buy as well.  That’s how popular she has become again.

Her first published book was 1927, and over the years, a couple of her books were made into movies – They Were Sisters (1943), and They Knew Mr Knight (1934). Those two  disqualify themselves from being reviewed here. But they are still great reads.

Two other books, published in the 1940s, that I enjoyed are, Every Good Deed (1946) which is a book of short stories (short stories – out of fashion for so long, are also gaining popularity again) and Because Of The Lockwoods (1949).  Let me tell you about Because Of The Lockwoods.


Mrs Lockwood decided to invite Mrs Hunter and her children to Oakfield for New Year’s Eve.  It would be one way of getting the food eaten up’. ~ The opening sentences of ‘Because of the Lockwoods’


The story is about two families, the Hunters with three children, and the Lockwoods with their twin daughters.  Mr Hunter has died before the story starts, and Mr Lockwood has taken Mrs Hunter’s finances in hand to help her.

The Lockwoods are actually very condescending towards the Hunters – infuriatingly and insultingly patronising, so that you get the feeling that the Lockwoods use the Hunters to make themselves feel good and superior, and even generous towards a less fortunate family.

It’s horrible, and all the time we are waiting for someone in the Hunter family to stand up to the Lockwoods and say something. The injustice is immense, but the author has a way of helping you to see the villain’s side of the story and somehow have understanding, if not compassion.  Not in any way soppy or smug, but in a firm, respectful way. So that in the end, you are satisfied and put the book down with a sense of completion. Not that I ever liked a Lockwood, and not that they got away with it in the end, of course.


‘William Lockwood had laid his strong, hairy hands to life and meant to wring from it the best of everything for his wife, his girls and himself.’ ~ ‘Because of the Lockwoods’


I am so glad Dorothy’s books are in the library and that she is making a twenty-first century comeback.  I recommend all her books, but I had to choose to write about a single book written in the 1940s that had not been made into a movie, and that was Because of the Lockwoods.

I want to mention that I just read a review in The Observer by the famous author, Kazuo Ishiguro, of the 1931 novel, The Fortnight in September, which I reviewed last month. Kazuo Ishiguro described it as ‘just about the most uplifting, life-affirming novel I can think of right now.’ I so agree with him.  In fact, I was delighted to read that a famous author and I both find wonderful delight in The Fortnight in September

Next month I’ll review a book written in the 1950s. And meantime, I would love to hear from you.

Please write to me: stephanie at homeschoolfamilylife dot com.  I love getting book recommendations, and I love talking about good books. So tell me what you’re reading

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