Monday, 31 August 2009

Catching Fire

I read the first in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins less that a fortnight ago, immediately pre-ordered a copy of its sequel, and due to an administrative error on the part of Amazon, I somehow received my copy a week before publication. I was actually able to resist the temptation of reading it immediately, with Persephone Reading Week and a headache occupying me, but once their pressures lessened, I devoured Catching Fire. Like its predecessor, this too was unputdownable.

Set in the aftermath of The Hunger Games, Katniss is home in District 12 as victor. After her victory tour, Katniss has to prepare for the third Quarter Quell (75th anniversary of The Hunger Games), an uber Hunger Games used to quell uprisings and revolution. Katniss is supposed to be mentor to the new tributes but, as a rebellious threat to the Capitol and to the terrifyingly cruel President Snow, measures must be taken to subdue her influence on unstable districts.

I was wondering how Collins would sustain the energy and action of the first in the trilogy, without the suspenseful games, but she achieves it remarkably well; Katniss is a piece in the bigger games that are being played and not just by the Capitol and their President. The social and political commentary in the sequel is just as powerful as in the first in the trilogy. Katniss remains a strong and admirable female protagonist, a heroine, a symbol of success against the Capitol of Panem, a mockingjay, and uses her wits to battle against stronger forces; Katniss is unwilling to be a pawn in anyone's game and her resistance is the crux of the trilogy.

It is incredibly difficult to review the second part of a trilogy knowing that many of you haven't read the first but have tried not to spoil anything about either the first or second. Bring on the third; this is the best YA series that I have ever read.

Sunday, 30 August 2009


One challenge down and another commences! The weather begins to grow colder, the nights darker, and the air creepier, and reading matter should reflect that. I have had three titles published/re-issued in October pre-ordered for a number of weeks in anticipation of the R.I.P. IV (Reader's Imbibing Peril) Challenge hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings and include those at the top of my book pool.

I have decided to indulge in Peril the First: Read FOUR books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose. The subgenres cover Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy,
Gothic, Horror, Supernatural
, which leaves me so many great books to choose from.

As I have a heavy reading list at the moment I am hoping to combine my R.I.P. reads with those for the Japanese Literature Challenge as well as allowing me to read some for Savidge Read's Sensational September and potentially a couple of Classics that I have been meaning to read for ever.

My pool of potential books:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Out by Natsuo Kirino
Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Strangers by Taichi Yamada
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill
A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I think a devilish dozen is ample selection although, knowing me, I will chop and change my choices frequently between now (officially September 1st) and Hallowe'en. I will also be participating in Short Story Sundays wherever possible and have a number on hand.

Are you joining in during R.I.P. IV? What are you most looking forward to? Are any of my potential reads appealing or intriguing to you?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Persephone Wrap Up

This is my final update post for the wonderful Persephone Reading Week. I have greatly enjoyed co-hosting this week, indulging in reading Persephone Books, and reading all of your comments and related posts. I would like to thank Verity for all of her hard work and enthusiasm, the generosity of Persephone Books, and all of the excited participants for making this an amazing week. Here's to Persephone Reading Week 2010!

Random Number Generator reliably informs me that the last lucky winner of Good Evening, Mrs Craven is ...


Congratulations! Please email your details and I'll post that along with the others next week.

Commiserations to those who didn't win anything this week; console yourself with the thought of the prizes next time!

Yesterday, Tracey wrote a great review of The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf. Nymeth, Claire, and Book Psmith all wrote wonderful summary posts from which I will borrow a part.

During this week I read one Persephone every day for four days until yesterday when, with a headache and sheer tiredness, I only managed a quarter of Good Evening, Mrs Craven so look forward to a review for that at a later date. I was also tempted by so many others on my grey -especially Saplings and Miss Buncle's Book- but will savour those some time soon; I also have a couple more on my immediate reading list that weren't mentioned this week and borrowed a couple from Verity. As for the ones that are now top of my Persephone wishlist:

The Wise Virgins

Round About a Pound a Week

Miss Ranskill Comes Home

The Village

The Runaway

Lastly, fleur fisher asked how we all discovered Persephone Books and Verity answered this herself midweek.

As for me, a friend actually told me about Persephone Books back in 2006 but I didn't really follow through. I bookmarked the website, had a look at their catalogue (only really paying attention to the author names I had read: Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, and Frances Hodgson Burnett) but missed the opportunity to truly discover them. I was intrigued, however, and planned to go to the shop during a visit in '07 but didn't... Then in April '08, I googled for more information regarding the VMC 30th Birthday Commemorative hardbacks and came across this blog post written by Danielle of A Work in Progress. I was surprised and thankful that Persephone Books had again been brought to my attention and immediately attracted to the sound of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Upon further research, I discovered that it was about to be released as a film, and promptly purchased a Classics edition of it; I read it as soon as it arrived and a love affair was born. A couple of months later I made my first order from the shop (The Victorian Chaise-longue) and added myself to their mailing list. In October, having just moved to London, I made my first visit to the shop and haven't looked back since. Sixteen months from reading Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, I have read a further fourteen Persephones and have another eight unread on the shelf. I am definitely in love with the magical imprint.

Thank you for sharing in and contributing to my Persephone passion.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Persephone Update 13

The first Persephone I read and reviewed this week was Flush by Virginia Woolf, which Danielle of Leaning Towards the Sun has also read and reviewed. The second title I read was A London Child of the 1870s and you can read my thoughts here and compare with Christy's opinion.

Danielle's photograph of her golden cocker spaniel, Tucker, reminded me that during the scene where Flush is unceremoniously shorn of his full coat (a symbol of his pedigree breeding) to rid him of an infestation of fleas, I thought of my parents' springer spaniel, Laddie. As a recent measure to assuage his suffering in the heat, Laddie had a drastic hair cut and is photographed below looking accusatory; I thought I would share.

Persephone Quiz Result

Here are the answers to my Persephone Quiz and the result.

1. In the grey edition of Someone at a Distance, who designed the fabric that is used as the end-paper? Ashley Havinden

2. Which year was Persephone author, Monica Dickens, the great granddaughter of Charles Dickens, born? 1915

3. Could you tell me which Persephone titles the endpapers to the left come from?

The Were Sisters
The Shuttle
The Young Pretenders
Hostages to Fortune

4. List please the three forthcoming titles for Persephone's catalogue this October.
To Bed With Grand Music, High Wages, A New System of Domestic Cookery by a Lady

5. Which famous literary husband and wife both feature in the Persephone catalogue? Virginia and Leonard Woolf

6. The artwork to the right is by Ann Doughty and depicts 58 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, a flat that Winifred Holtby shared with which other writer? Vera Brittain

7. The beautiful artist's impression of the Persephone shop and office in Bloomsbury is by David Gentleman. At what number on Lamb's Conduit Street is the shop situated? 59

8. A famous Virago author (recently reviewed on this blog) has a cousin who is published by Persephone; can you tell me who that cousin is? Katherine Mansfield (cousin of Elizabeth von Arnim)

9. At the present time, how many Dorothy Whipple titles do Persephone publish? 5

10. The Islington House below, painted by David Gentlemen also, is the setting for which Persephone novel? The Victorian-longue

Thank you to everyone who completed the quiz; you all did extraordinarily well and I used a Random Number Generator to select the prize-winner of the Persphone Classics edition of Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple to...


Congratulations, Darlene! Please email me your address and I'll pop this in the post to you next week.

Quote of the Week

Earlier this week, Simon S of Savidge Reads described Persephone Books as "the Cath Kidston of the book world", which filled me with utter delight as never a truer thing was said. To anyone outside the UK, Cath Kidston is a designer who uses classic style prints for the discerning home and individual (the pattern on her cushions above wonderfully complement the end-paper photographed). I loved this quote so much and I think that Simon deserves recognition for it. Nobody was tempted by my Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day DVD competition and I think that calls for Simon to be rewarded instead. So, Simon, would you like a copy of the DVD or the book (and if the book, with the Classic cover or the original dove-grey)?


Little Boy Lost

I purchased Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski in February of this year (I tend to purchase the Classics from online booksellers and the dove-greys from Persephone themselves, which is why I can be clear on when I bought it) and I am ashamed that I haven't read it until now. Not ashamed because it has been unread for so long as I have books on my bookshelves that have stayed unread for far longer but ashamed because I didn't realise straight off how much I would adore this book. This has immediately become one of my Persephone favourites and is definitely my reading highlight of this week.

The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski was the second Persephone I read, in October last year, and I enjoyed it but wasn't wowed or as thoroughly charmed as I had been with my first foray into the world of the dove-grey book, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. My third Persephone, Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple, however, I adored for its emotional intensity and raw evocation of infidelity's effects on all concerned. This week I have been tempted to revisit The Victorian Chaise-longue and I definitely will to see if my opinion changes any, but it perhaps explains why I didn't instantly read Little Boy Lost; now that I have, I will be purchasing and reading The Village as soon as I am able and the forthcoming title by Laski published this October, To Bed With Grand Music, was one that appealed anyway.

Do not miss the wonderful opportunity to read this book. It is a egregious crime that it ever fell out of print, for Persephone Books to have to rescue it, but I am glad that they did. Little Boy Lost has a reputation as a heartbreaker and rightly so but although disheartening, it is not completely devastating. I don't want to spoil this book but the unbearably poignant closing lines elicited such a powerful, emotional response in me; I don't think I have ever been so moved by a book's ending. I instantly wanted to reach over and wake up my boyfriend to tell him all about it as I knew I couldn't tell any of you, unless you had also read it. This is a book that I hugged upon closing, with watery eyes.

I hope Jessica Crispin of Bookslut doesn't mind me posting the first part of her review of Little Boy Lost from earlier this year but is truly too good not to share (for the second half of the letter, click on the link and scroll down to January 14th; she doesn't spoil anything.)

Dear Marghanita Laski:

Fuck you. Because of your novel Little Boy Lost, I spent ten minutes yesterday on my living room floor, crying. Over a story about a man incapable of love and a boy who might be his son in a post-WWII orphanage. Are you fucking kidding me? But really pissed me off is the fact that your book is not at all sentimental! Not even a twinge of manipulation, just told simply and plainly. I started muttering to myself about halfway through, talking back to the book, calling Hilary an idiot. Then came the heavy breathing, and then the crying.

How evocative a response to a book is that? When Darlene quoted the review opening in her comments earlier this week, it convinced me to pick up Little Boy Lost. I am so thankful to Darlene (and Jessica) for that; I enjoy being emotionally wrung out by a book and this one does that so wonderfully well, without being emotionally manipulative.

The beautifully understated and emotionally evocative novel concerns Hilary Wainwright, a poet and intellectual, who has to leave his wife, Lisa, and their newborn baby, John, in Paris when WWII breaks out. Hilary is English and Lisa is of Polish birth, and part of the Resistance movement; Lisa gives their baby to a friend when she discovers the Gestapo are aware of her involvement and is killed (all of this is discovered in the opening pages). When Jeanne, Lisa's friend, is also killed, the baby boy is thought lost but after the War, Hilary returns to France to search for his son, with the help of Jeanne's fiancé, Pierre. A boy of the right age, blood type (of course during a time when DNA testing was not an option), and circumstances is located in a provincial French town but there is no way of accurately determining whether the boy, Jean, is indeed Hilary's son.

The crux of the novel is of Hilary and Jean's growing relationship over one week and of Hilary's ambivalence towards his growing feelings for the boy, who may or may not be kin, and his contempt for the post-war corruption of France. The emotional state of Hilary is beautifully evoked, and although he and his choices are not always agreeable, his character is sympathetically portrayed. Hilary has experienced such unbearable loss that he closes himself off to loving again because that opens him up to future potential pain; such conflict within his inner-self is deftly evoked.

The traitor emotions of love and tenderness and pity must stay dead in me. I could not endure them to live and then die again.

Jean is once of the sweetest and heartrending children that I have come across in literature and it is impossible not to give your heart to him and his potential fate. "[Jean] walks straight into the reader's heart. He is, in one sense, every lost child of Europe", wrote novelist Elizabeth Bowen and the poet Stevie Smith wrote: "The poor, cold child, starved of love but most endearing, and the father who fears he cannot love, seem frozen in time; there is great depth of feeling in this story and an admirable simplicity of style."

One of my favourite passages, that accurately sums up the dilemma Hilary faces in recognising his son, and is central to the plot:

If he is my son then we met once at the moment of his birth and have had nothing in common ever since. He might tell me what toys he played with - but I have never seen them. He might tell me of other children he knew - but I have never met them. If he remembered being kissed on this particular spot, being put to bed with that particular formula, I would still not know if those were the things that happened between Lisa and my son. I don't even know the little pet names they would have had for each other.

Please read Little Boy Lost. Elizabeth Bowen also wrote in her review that "to miss reading Little Boy Lost would be to by-pass a very searching, and revealing, human experience."

Persephone Update 12 & Prize

It's the last day of Persephone Reading Week, everyone; are you as sad about that as I am? I have enjoyed myself immensely and had such a wonderful reading experience yesterday with my Persephone of the day, Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski (review forthcoming).

I will be rounding up over the next couple of days, linking to your reviews and awarding some of the outstanding prizes. Once Verity returns from holiday we will together decide our favourite Persephone-related post and award A London Child of the 1870s.

Speaking of prizes, I have drawn yesterday's copy of Good Evening, Mrs Craven and the lucky recipient is...


Congratulations! Please email your address and I'll pop that in the post to you next week. I'm so glad that a) you have another Persephone to read now (as you have the self-imposed book ban and can't buy any) and b) it's a Persephone of WWII short stories, a time period you have been seeking out in literature.

For everyone else: don't be downhearted as there is still one remaining copy of Good Evening, Mrs Craven to win and all you have to do is comment here today. I will also be announcing the winner of my Persephone quiz this evening.

Speaking of Good Evening, Mrs Craven, we have our first reviews of it this week from Danielle and Simon S. I am delighted that Simon enjoyed his first Persephone book (the first of many, I imagine!) and I plan to read it myself today.

In honour of the last day of Persephone Reading Week, The Persephone Post have treated us this apt and beautiful painting. To me, it epitomises the joyful experience of this week.

Verity has summed up her experiences in this lovely, gracious post and has given voice to sentiments I wholeheartedly agree with.

Darlene has reviewed The Village by Marghanita Laski for us, and I now covet the book (of course). Laski has definitely been our most proficient and popular Persephone author this week; she has indeed been my favourite, although I still have one more Persephone to fit in before the challenge ends.

Also, you MUST visit fleur fisher's blog today as not only does she have a wonderfully generous prize giveaway of TWO Persephones, she also has this lovely and highly informative feature (part one) published yesterday with part two to come today. Thank you so much on behalf of myself and Verity.

I hope you have enjoyed this week and enjoy this last day of it. Please share your highlights with me in comments and inform us of anything you would like to see during our next reading week devoted to the lovely dove-grey books.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Persephone Update 11

This evening's links for you before I curl up with what remains of Little Boy Lost By Marghanita Laski:

Swati has written a comprehensive and illuminating review of Round About a Pound a Week by Maud Pember Reeves, which I am now most curious to read.

fleur fisher provides a look at one of the under-represented poetry offerings of Persephone, which appeals far more to me than I would have thought. Isn't the end-paper beautiful?

Speaking of verse, Simon T teases us with a preamble to the review he will post tomorrow.

Happy reading, Persephonites!

Persephone Update 10

hjelliot has very kindly provided us with another review, this time for Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd:

Miss Ranskill Comes Home begins with a burial. It is a bleak beginning however ridiculous, but we know she is rescued and returns to 'civilization.' This return, a return she has dreamt of all these years, becomes a heartbreaking reality as she finds her home changed. England is not the England she remembers and her home no longer her home. Of course nothing is as we remember and we can never go home again as they say. Miss Ranskill is looking at her country, her people, through the eyes of a foreigner and thus she is treated. England is harsh, people unfriendly. Even her sister finds her a burden rather than welcoming her with open arms. But Miss Ranskill did not survive on a desert island for four years to be defeated by her newly war-transformed country. It is another type of survival she must learn.

This is a Persephone that intrigues me; it sounds quirky. It is written by the same author who created the children's character, Wurzel Gummidge. Has anyone read Persephone #46?

A Little Tea & A Little Chat at Persephone Books

Serendipitously both Darlene and I today have written about having tea at Persephone Books. Where Darlene was lucky enough to attend one of the shop's book chats, I was visiting to collect the prize copies that Persephone so very kindly offered Verity and I for this week's give-aways.

Last month I popped in on my way home from a job interview and spent a couple of hours in the pleasant and wonderfully welcoming company of Nicola and Lydia. Imagine my disappointment though when I first arrived to find the door locked! Lydia had to go to the loo, you see, which I promptly forgave her for. My first stop was the basement where I was in Persephone lover heaven to see all the titles stacked up and the wonderful bookcase of slightly damaged copies. If I hadn't been wearing a suit, I would have plopped myself down in front of them, amongst dust and some cobwebs (Lydia warned me of spiders), and meticulously chose copies but as it was I chose at random whilst Lydia kindly carried a box of Good Evening, Mrs Craven upstairs and put them in a lovely jute bag. As well as thanking Persephone for their generosity, I would also like to take the opportunity to express my wonder at their customer service and quality of book provided: I have bought or been sent new books in worse condition from other booksellers than the ones supplied for prize copies but Persephone are unwilling to sell anything less than pristine, which is admirable.

Whilst waiting for Nicola, who was on her way, Lydia and I discussed our mutual Master's degrees as it transpired that we had both done similar courses at different Universities and then the Booker longlist as it had been announced the previous day (Lydia, like me, was most excited about The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds), leading to a longer conversation about The Little Stranger, which Sarah Waters had sent as a gift to the shop, as she is a huge admirer, and which Nicola later said I was welcome to borrow if I hadn't read. Following Nicola's arrival and settling down to Elevenses (Nicola, I was charmed to notice drank from a Nancy Mitford, Pursuit of Love Penguin Classics mug) we engaged in some general literary chat, as well as discussion covering blogging and Verity's and my challenge, Simon at Stuck in a Book who is thought of highly (and rightly so), my career goals, and publishing.

The literary chat was fascinating and, in my opinion, you would be hard-pushed to find someone as enthused and passionate about literature and the book industry as Nicola Beauman. We spoke of The Group by Mary McCarthy which I had recently read and loved. I told Nicola that I thought it should be a Persephone and she is of the same mind but, regretfully, she was unable to obtain the publishing rights to it. Interestingly, the Persephone title that took the longest to obtain the rights to was The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf and she would also love to possess the rights to The Expendable Man within the United States.

We also touched upon Stella Gibbons and the possibility of Persephone publishing one of her titles but Nicola told me honestly that she hasn't found a book that challenge Cold Comfort Farm. Indeed the vision of Persephone is to publish wonderful books because, as a reader, Nicola only wants to publish wonderful books.

The new Bloomsbury Group project was covered as was the original and beautiful cover art of Virago Modern Classics; the Editor-in-Chief of Bloomsbury, Alexandra Pringle, began her career in Virago editing and choosing the artwork for those iconic covers. Nicola also told me about this article, at that time forthcoming, and enthusiastically recommended the novel Hearts and Minds by Amanda Craig.

Another highlight to my shop visit was spying the reproduction endpapers for the new books (forthcoming - Oct 22nd) which, of course, are typically beautiful.

I was struck by how friendly, welcoming, and warm both Nicola and Lydia were and not just to me but to their customers. The customer service is fabulous and their passion for books is apparent as they happily discuss non-Persephone titles with visitors to the shop.

There is definitely an endearing quality to the shop as well as to the imprints. India Knight describes Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and The Making of a Marchioness as "bed books", along with beloved classics I Capture the Castle, Pride and Prejudice, My Cousin Rachel, the Anne of Green Gables books and everything written by Nancy Mitford (The Shops p. 108). I love "bed books" and the indulgence of comfort reads and fairy tales for grown-ups but there is also a lot of substance amongst Persephone Books, some of which we have seen this week.

I spent a lovely morning at Persephone having tea and I am only sad that Verity wasn't there to join me.

I had to include in this post the beautiful artist's reproduction of the shop by David Gentleman as it is one of my favourites.

Hetty Dorval

After reading fleur fisher's review, I was intrigued by Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson, and anxious to read it. I find that my anxiety to read a book as soon as possible often results in rash purchases but luckily Verity had a copy and when we met yesterday afternoon I borrowed it from her, began reading it immediately, and finished it last night. It is a very quick read and is one of Persephone's shorter titles.

I knew nothing of Ethel Wilson and her reputation in Canada and this short story is all about reputation or of a "woman of no reputation". Less about Hetty Dorval, it is actually a coming-of-age story about Frankie Burnaby and her various encounters with Hetty Dorval over the years, and the effect that the older woman has on her. Frankie's parents think of Hetty as "The Menace" and forbid Frankie to speak with her, knowing nothing of her except of the hint of scandal that has followed her from Shanghai to Lytton, near Vancouver. This clever little book, which is compelling, is about the insidious danger of gossip as much as it is about the insidious nature of people with faces like angels. I found it quite hard-hitting in its way; I am sure we have all encountered people who are not what they seem and who sometimes we are desperate to eject from our lives before they harm us or the ones we love. However, it is also about prejudice - is Hetty as awful as everybody makes out and were Frankie's innocent first impressions as a naive child more accurate than her adult prejudiced by gossip and influence take? This is definitely morally ambiguously but what is clear is that Frankie has matured and Hetty stays the same, seeking to be alone outwith society and their judgement, but as is mentioned in the text, by quoting Donne: "no man is an island" and apparently no woman either.

Bookshops III

My third post in my Bookshops series is appropriate for Persephone Reading Week as it is Persephone Books. The Lamb's Conduit Street shop and office is one of my favourite places -not just shops or bookshops- to visit in London, not least because I emerge each time with at least one beautiful Persephone clutched to my chest. Lamb's Conduit Street is an ambient, Parisian-like street with lovely boutiques, delis. and restaurants in Bloomsbury, London, and is definitely worth a visit, not simply for the wonder that is this bookshop.

As you can see from the photograph above (apologies for the reflection but it is impossible to avoid), the door is open and welcoming and the hanging basket you see contains the Persephone catalogue and Bi-annually for you to pick up as you enter, exit, or walk by. The shop is cosy and lovely; also the main office it has a sense of bustle but also of homeliness. Light and breezy (the back door is open to the garden), Persephone Books is such a pleasure to spend time in with lots of flowers scattered around and beautifully framed posters, paintings, and fabrics on the walls to delight and engage those who browse. It is such an informal, friendly atmosphere with Nicola and Lydia engaging with customers and enthusing about books in general, not just Persephones. On occasions where Nicola (Beauman, Persephone's founder) needs to pop out quickly to one of the neighbouring shops to pick up lunch or a coffee, she will leave the shop momentarily in the hands of the customers; that is the type of bookshop Persephone Books is.

In The Shops by India Knight, she declares, "oh, the bliss of Persephone Books!" (p. 46) and the shop really is blissful. From the bookcase facing the door (seen in the photograph) the books are arranged clock-wise in order of the books' position in the catalogue. Beside each individual stack of a title are the free accompanying bookmarks (which match that particular Persephone's endpaper) and another stack of prettily tissue-wrapped copies of the book. The books are so elegant and sophisticated in appearance with one book standing open above the pile so that the colourful and beautiful end-papers are on display too, adding a vibrancy to the shop as they contrast with the pretty dove-grey.

Persephones do make wonderful gifts and I have both given and received them. The Persephone website (where the bulk of their business is conducted via mail-order worldwide) has this indispensable guide to the giving the perfect present. In her presents section from the book linked to above, India Knight says the best presents for mums are "Books from Persephone, particularly Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" (p. 194) and how true! Recently I was speaking to someone who purchased twenty Persephone titles as a wedding gift for a dear friend; lucky friend... although I wonder how the groom felt. As a result, I daydreamed about one day having Persephone title Cheerful Weather for the Wedding as a wedding favour for the guests but perhaps it isn't that fair to impose my addicition onto everybody else.

Later today I will be posting about my most recent visit to Persephone Books.

Persephone Update 9

Yesterday's prize-draw winner has been announced. Congratulations!

For a chance of winning those last two remaining copies of Good Evening, Mrs Craven then please comment on this post each day between this morning and midnight tomorrow. Good luck!

As for today's links: we excitingly have a review of forthcoming Persephone title, High Wages by Dorothy Whipple. Written by fleur fisher, this review highly excites me and I will be purchasing this on October 22nd, when it is released. I can also reliably inform Jane and you all that the end-paper is beautiful -of course- as I spied it when I visited the shop to collect the prizes they so kindly donated! It was one of the many highlights but more about that later...

Book Psmith has a crafty offering for us, which makes me feel creative. I do love bookmarks!

Christy has given us a gorgrous, colourful post to gush over and plenty of reading!

Lastly, for the moment, is Simon T's daily review from yesterday, this time on one of Persephone's children's books, The Runaway.

Please don't forget the last few days of entering the Miss Pettigrew DVD competition and our quizzes here and here, if you haven't done so yet!

Thank you to everybody posting and contributing to such a versatile and fun week!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Persephone Update 8

One more link before one tired Persephone Reading Week co-host calls it a night and retires to bed with a Persephone, of course, tucked up with her (oh and grey pyjamas!)

Nymeth has written a lovely review of Saplings by Noel Streatfeild for your perusal and temptation. Saplings is one of the Persephones (much like Mariana by Monica Dickens) that I have been saving for a grey, dismal couple of days and I forecast that those are fast approaching.

Persephone Update 7

Just the one quick update post tonight with this link to Darlene's lovely reading nook, where she is wearing grey and reading The Village by Marghanita Laski and this one to a wonderful review of Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Claire. This Claire's review of the same Persephone -her favourite- can be found here (and, yes, she enjoys speaking of herself in the third-person).

Just in: an additional review by Danielle of Leaning Towards the Sun on Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey.

Hope you're all enjoying Perspehone Reading Week!


Verity and I decided today that the Teaser Tuesday that tempted us most was...

From Mariana by Monica Dickens:

"Aunt Winifred did not speak much, but when she did, she often got straight to the heart of the matter in one simple, penetrating remark. When Julia had gone wandering away, bored with the grown-ups, Winifred said, "Child wants a good spanking."

Submitted by Coops. You have won a copy of Few Eggs and No Oranges by Vere Hodgson. Congratulations! Please email me your details and I'll post that off to you next week. It's great to see non-bloggers de-lurking to comment, participate, and benefit!

Thank you to those who teased but didn't win. However, don't despair! There are still three copies of Good Evening, Mrs Craven to win by commenting here or there are our quizzes, the Miss Pettigrew DVD competition, and prize of A London Child of the 1870s that we will award after the week to our favourite Persephone-related post.

Old Lace without the Arsenic

As I posted earlier in relation to my second favourite Persephone, Miss Pettigrew Lived for a Day, I thought I would share with you the Persephone title that supplanted it in my affections.

"It is like an old-fashioned lace," is how one of the members of the LibraryThing Persephone Readers group described Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson, and I think that is a beautiful summation of a beautiful book. A bittersweet romance, this Persephone is enchanting and makes lovely reading for a quiet, weekend afternoon, or as a superb choice for this week's challenge as you will easily while away the hours.

Romance is a key-word when it comes to Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary as it is set in the lush landscape of aristocratic, Victorian Scotland with references to Jacobite Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary, Queen of Scots, that evoke images of Romanticism as much as they do thistles and heather. Candida Williams, in her preface, declares it "a love story and a love letter - to Scotland" and it certainly is; Lady Rose Targenet, the novel's protagonist, is fiercely and passionately patriotic. Being a Scot myself may count for some of my love for this wonderful story but I defy anyone not to become caught up in its magic, tartan-blooded or not.

It is wonderfully charming and delightful and, like Miss Pettigrew, is "a fairy tale for grown ups". I was captivated and spell-bound by the story of Lady Rose Targenet, who grew up and became the Countess of Lochlule. Although romantic, with fairy tale elements, Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary, is also a social commentary of the time and is poignant and heartbreaking. The novel gives an insight into the uncompromising and unforgiving nature of Victorian society, which is bitterly evoked in its treatment of Lady Rose.

The tale of Lady Rose is framed by the tour of Lochlule House of three American tourists, given by the house's caretaker, Mrs Memmary. Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary are both central to the plot as are their love for the house and for Scotland. This Persephone is undoubtedly my favourite and it was also a favourite of the late Queen Mother.

A favourite passage:

Somewhere hidden away in the dusty portfolio of Time was a picture that fitted here. It was as though the Old Man with the forelock and the scythe was watching, with folded arms, that arrested moment when three tourists and an old caretaker stood in the silent and almost empty shell of Lochlule House, in the blue nursery which had belonged to Lady Rose as a child. So old Time seized his book and began to turn back the pages, ten, twenty at a time -- more than seventy years of yellow leaves. Through them all the great white house gleamed whiter, and soon the Greek girl at the fountain was laughing as the waters of a bygone day gushed over her reaching fingers.

Persephone Update 6

Today's summary:

First things first: Verity drew yesterday's winner of Good Evening, Mrs Craven. Congratulations and please email your address so that I can post you your copy.

Here is receipt of yesterday's prize.

Check out today's photograph on The Persephone Post! Thank you to Persephone Books for the acknowledgement of Persephone Reading Week. Thank you too to Simon T for his review of Minnie's Room: the Peacetime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes; I know that I'll be trying to read that soon after I read my own copy of the Wartime stories we are offering as prize copies (comment, comment, comment!)

We also have Claire's (the other Claire!) review of her first Persephone, which she was "truly charmed" by and which fits in well with my special competition today.

I am also sharing my favourite Persephone with you later today so stay tuned for that!

Read Book Psmith's reading notes last night
on Miss Buncle's Book, doesn't it make you want to pick up a copy this instant?!

Also, a quote from another blog that Darlene read, mentioned in her comments, has me VERY intrigued by Little Boy Lost... Do I finish this week with the heartrending -Saplings or Little Boy Lost- or the delightful, Miss Buncle's Book? Dilemmas, dilemmas.

Danielle is savouring House-Bound, like a fine wine.

Lastly, Christy has created a new banner for her blog in honour of Persephone Reading Week, isn't it beautiful?

Appropriately the sky is grey as is my outfit for when I meet Verity today for some book shopping (are you envious?!) Verity is also kindly allowing me to borrow Hetty Dorval as I have been itching to read it since, well, yesterday!

Speaking of Verity, have you seen her My Persephone Life? Moreover, to coincide with Persephone Week, we also have another Virago/Persephone review.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

In February I reviewed the film adaptation of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a review that prompted me to write and maintain my blog. Without having watched this delightful film (after discovering the book the previous April) then I may not have been inspired to blog and I would not be co-hosting Persephone Reading Week.

In celebration of that fortuitous decision and because Miss Pettigrew is how I came across Persephone Books in the first place, as I suspect is also the case for some of you, I am offering a giveaway. I will send one lucky participant of Persephone Reading Week a copy of the Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day DVD (in the appropriate format, depending on where you are in the world) if you can answer me this:

Author India Knight describes Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day as "[t]he sweetest grown-up book in the world" (The Shops p. 108) and it really is charming. Fortuitous events (how apt) bring Miss Guinivere Pettigrew into the chaotic, enlivening, and high society presence of Miss Delysia Lafosse on a fairy-tale day that will change her life into a happy ever after one. If you could spend a life-changing, fairy-tale day, in any time and any place with any person, what would your "... lives for a day" story be? Answers in an email to me by the end of Persephone Week on Friday and I'll post your entries and award the prize to my favourite over the weekend.

A London Child of the 1870s

A London Child of the 1870s by Molly Hughes (#61) was the book I read yesterday for Persephone Reading Week. Historically insightful, the short novel provides a look at the childhood of Molly Hughes (this being the first in a series of autobiographical works) in Victorian London. Often sympathetic (when published in 1934, sympathy for Victorian times was unpopular) and nostalgic, with frequent comparisons to present 1930s childhood, Hughes' intention was "to show that Victorian children did not have such a dull time as is usually supposed" and in her intent, she succeeded. The events of the novel run from 1870-9, her early memories until her "happy childhood was abruptly ended"; I won't spoil the circumstances in which her childhood ended although beware that it is cited in the Persephone bio of the author.

I was interested in the historical representation of London and the era was well captured; in some respects I was reminded of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, without the intense pathos of that classic novel, as they are set in a similar time period. Molly, however, is the one girl with four older brothers but is integrated into their play and manages to get herself into scrapes just as easily as the March sisters; I was also reminded of Enid Blyton novels, especially when Molly's family spend one summer with their relatives in Cornwall (a startling contrast to the city).

The London Child of the 1870s renders the period and a child's daily life superbly well but I wasn't engaged; my mood yesterday sought something gripping and compelling and regretfully this isn't that type of Persephone novel. I do love though that each Persephone Book has something unique to offer and I enjoyed this for its historical perspective and descriptions of Victorian London, although Victorian London doesn't sound too different from the London on 130 years later.

None but an old Londoner can understand the attraction of the town. After the music of the words 'London only' at Reading, we gave ourselves up to the nil admirari spirit. The size and importance of the terminus might alarm a timid fellow passenger, but were nothing to us. The wet streets (for it invariably seemed to rain on our return), the reflections from the street lamps and the shops, the utter indifference of everybody to us and our concerns-why was it fascinating to a child? I suppose we took on that feeling of superiority to all the world, the idea of finality, that London gives. No sign-posts to other towns are to be seen. Here's London. Here you are. We are almost of the same mind as the old Cornish farm-labourer who could not be made to believe that there was anything beyond London.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Persephone Update 5

Earlier today I linked to Simon T's review of Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan and that should have reminded me that I have read a further two reviews of this Persephone recently, both offering different insights. One was written by Bloomsbury Bell and the other by Danielle of A Work in Progress and you can click this link to read her thoughts too.

Originally I was planning to read Princes in the Land this week but I have so many Persephones to choose from! The differing and intriguing reviews make my choice more difficult, it would seem...

As much as this week's challenge being about discovering and indulging in Persephone Books, it is also about coming together as a community and finding like-minded book lovers, which is why I am sharing as many varying thoughts and impressions as I can.

Persephone Update 4

And another!

h j elliot, a future blogger, sent me a link to her review of Every Eye by Isobel English and I hope she won't mind if I actually feature it as a guest review:

This is a gem of a book. The story of a woman on her belated honeymoon. From this start, we glean knowledge of her childhood and young womanhood in flashbacks. Her observations stunning and descriptions marvelously vivid. We are there, traveling in the train with her, arriving in Paris, Barcelona, Ibiza, slightly disheveled and trying to recall the language. The relationships and outlook, honest:
" least we had the barren fields of our incompatibility between us, which made us better than strangers."
"Quite soon the day is over, and we have fashioned it from its grey beginning into something iridescent and unique."

Another one for the wishlist! This week is adding exponentially to my wishlist and to my immediate reading list ... not that I am complaining, much.

Many thanks to h j elliot for the insight into what looks like another delightful Persephone.

Persephone Update 3

Just another quick link, this time to a review by Fleur Fisher that I missed from yesterday. This one is about Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson, a Persephone that seems to be less well-known and I knew very little about it before now. One of the things that excites me about Persephone Reading Week is reading about those Persephones that I have yet to read and ones that have missed my radar; Hetty Dorval is one of those and now I am coveting it.

Apparently Ethel Wilson is "one of Canada's most distinguished novelists, on a par with Alice Munro, Carol Shields and Margaret Atwood" (Amazon) and Hetty Dorval is a coming-of-age novella about Frankie who encounters the unconventional Hetty Dorval.

Persephone Update 2

So I'm acting as your personal Miss Linky and keeping you in the loop concerning some of the great Persephone Reading Week related posts that we have had so far today (or late last night GMT).

Simon T has intriguingly reviewed Princes in the Land for us here.

We already have another two reviews of The Victorian Chaise-Longue here and here!

Another popular choice is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a review of which has been written by Christy and also by Danielle.

Among the Persephone chat that's going on during the reading, Simon S wonderfully describes Persephone as "‘the Cath Kidson of the book world" and wants to have his very own shelf devoted to the imprint, which may look something like this and Claire asks if we are "torn between the elegant dove greys and the colourful classics"?

For anybody yet to join and/or seeking inspiration which Persephone to read, I have written previous reviews here, here and here, which may help.

Have I missed any of your reviews? Please link to them on my launch post yesterday to ensure you're entered into our prize draws and I'll include them in my update posts during the week.

Good Afternoon, Mrs Craven.

Verity drew the first prize-winner for Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes this morning. Congratulations! Please email me your details and I'll post them out with the other Persephone prizes next week.

Everyone else, please keep those comments coming on mine and Verity's challenge welcome and launch posts and good luck!

As an aside: Verity reviewed Mollie Panter-Downes' Virago novel One Fine Day today.

The Grey Shelf

I retained the grey shelf in my book collection to share with you this week during our Persephone Reading Challenge. Some of the Persephones shown above will feature themselves when I blog about them, either as ones I have previously read and loved or ones that I will be reading, at some point this week. Those books to the left of the slim volume of The Victorian Chaise-longue -which interestingly is so slight that it foregoes the Persephone logo- are the ones unread, including Miss Buncle's Book that lies along the top. I also have another grey Persephone currently on my bedside table, the Classics on another shelf, and other editions of Persephone titles shelved elsewhere. I love the uniform refinement of these books on a shelf of their own.

How do you shelve your Persephone Books? I considered ordering them in number and at first shelved them randomly, but then settled on dividing those read and to-be-read titles. I am already struggling for space so I foresee a reorganisination of my bookshelves in the near future (especially as forthcoming Persephones will be published on October 22nd). I envisage one day having an entire bookcase devoted to Persephone Books.