Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson

Hetty Dorval 2
A small book named Hetty Dorval by an author named Ethel Wilson. It maybe doesn’t sound too promising? Rather old fashioned?

But fortunately Hetty Dorval has been sent out into the world in a dove grey Persephone Books imprint. A sign that it is really something rather special.

The story opens in a small town in British Columbia. Thirteen-year-old Frankie Burnaby had gone to the station to look out for trains coming in and to catch the first glimpse of a new arrival – Mrs. Dorval.

The scene is gently and quite clearly evoked.

Frankie is drawn to Mrs. Dorval, and Hetty welcomes her. Hetty Dorval is beautiful, wealthy and charming.

But, while Frankie is enchanted, her parents disapprove of the friendship. It could just be parental concern about an adult who does not follow the normal rules, but there are hints that it is something else.

Hetty Dorval 1

Hetty is certainly unconventional, and she may well be immoral too. But what she may have done wrong is not clear, and is never fully explained.

Mrs. Dorval quickly moves on, but Frankie encounters her again at intervals over the years. And her childhood perceptions and responses change as she becomes an adult.

Ethel Wilson writes simply, effectively and beautifully.

Every character is perfectly formed; every scene is set out seemingly effortlessly and with wonderful clarity.

Hetty Dorval is a simple story, but it grips from beginning to end.

Why? Because it is a story of built on characters, and though it is set in the past its themes still resonate today.

This is a book definitely worthy of its dove-grey cover and beautiful endpapers!

Persephone Endpapers

Persephone Endpapers

Persephone Reading Week is being hosted here and here.

And I will be writing more about Persephone and giving two books away later in the week.

8 responses

  1. This one sounds like another Persephone that I would love to read! I’ve heard little or nothing about this particular title, which is what I was looking forward to during this week.
    Thank you and I am looking forward to your giveaways :).

  2. I’ve never seen a book with endpaper…very cool. You know something….until I started reading your blog this would’ve been a book I wouldn’t have given a second glance. Each time your words make me stop and rethink how many great books I’ve probably overlooked based on the cover alone. Thank you for your wonderful reviews!!

  3. You have definitely whetted my appetite to read this. I don’t know why it’s not caught my eye before in the Persephone Catalogue, and goodness knows I flip through often enough! Thanks for your review.

  4. This one sounds very appealing – your review is lovely. The few Persephones I have read have all been quite simple stories while at the same time seeming intimate and so perceptive. I look forward to your Dorothy Whipple review 0:)

  5. Hetty Dorval is one of my favorite reads. Ethel Wilson can say more with less than any other author.

    Where Elizabeth Jenkins, another “lost, and found” mid 20th century female author, fumbles and rambles on with painstaking monotony (The Tortoise and the Hare is a prime example, ugh), Ethel Wilson nails subtleties of mood and atmosphere with both brevity and wit.

  6. Pingback: Hetty Dorval | Paperback Reader

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