Which Way by Theodora Benson was first published in 1931 but it has just been reprinted by British Library in their Women Writers series. As usual they have included a short bio of the author, a timeline of the 1930s, and an afterword by Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book fame.
This novel is described as being experimental, it could quite easily have been titled What If? because that’s what it is really. I’m sure we all look back at times in our lives saying “What if I had made a different decision? How different would things have been?” The first part of the book is about Claudia Heseltine’s childhood, she is quite a difficult little girl, naughty in a cruel way at times. Then came a rather shy, priggish religious phase but when she meets Eileen a girl a year younger than her she improves. The friendship is deemed to be suitable by both sets of parents who also become friends. When Claudia is sent to a finishing school in Paris she sends gossipy letters to Eileen, who isn’t always so quick at replying. By the time Eileen is 19 she is busy with her future, she has met Tommy and he is the one for her, despite family opposition. Tommy is much older, rich, doesn’t work and is a philanderer, and her parents had imagined that Eileen would marry a future prime minister. Eileen knows what she wants though – and gets it.
Next comes Claudia’s first decision, the same paragraph appears three times in the book, and each time she makes a different decision when the telephone rings with an invitation for the weekend, she already has two other invitations which have been sent by letter, her decisions lead to three very different futures for her, involving three different men. As happens with human beings depending on which man Claudia is with her character changes, as inevitably people are influenced by the personality of others that they are close to – or want to end up close to! Thinking about it it is probably that trait which leads to many a divorce as after marriage some people do change entirely – they don’t have to be on their best behaviour any more. It’s all a bit of a lottery!
This was an interesting read although I couldn’t get Fleur Forsyte from Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga out of my head as I felt that Claudia was a similar type.
Thank you to British Library who asked me to take part in this blogtour and sent me a copy of the book. Some of the other bloggers participating are listed on the graphic below.
You can check the the British Library Shop for these books or look at #FarMoreThanFiction.