Few best-selling novelists are quite as forgotten as William Pett Ridge (1859–1930), who a century ago mapped the fascinating social borderland where the upper-working classes meet the lower-middles. Social mobility is his theme, and he has the knack of getting you to care about his characters as they tread the uncertain paths of early twentieth-century life.
Pett Ridge was no more than a name to me before he became the month’s author at the Sheffield Hallam Popular Fiction reading group recently. The book of his that I read was Thanks to Sanderson (1911) and my review of it can be found on the group’s website. Sylvia’s review of his 1923 novel Miss Mannering can also be found there.
Most of the group enjoyed the novels, and I began to wonder what Pett Ridge had written during the Great War years. I soon discovered The Amazing Years (1917), which is available free online at https://openlibrary.org/books/OL7185884M/The_amazing_years . The book is the story of the Hillier family of Chislehurst, as told by their servant Weston, who has been with them since their early struggling days in Brockley.
There came Mr. Hillier’s good luck in the City with the agency in Basinghall Street, and we moved to The Croft, where I was told to make no reference to Brockley, and to disclose to the maids of the house, or to the servants at any other house, no particulars of early days that had been imparted to me in confidence or gained by observation.