Monday 9 March 2009

Happy 10th Birthday Persephone!

Happy 10th Birthday, Persephone Books!

March 1999: Persephone published their first trio of
books - William - an Englishman by Cicley Hamilton; Mariana by Monica Dickens; Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. Ten years later they have 81 books in print, and I have just over half of 'em on my shelves.

I discovered Persephone through
their reprint of Richmal Crompton's Family Roundabout, already a favourite of mine, in January 2004, so I came in at the 5th anniversary - nice to know I've been reading them for just over half the time they've existed, though I'm sure a lot of readers of this blog have been there from the very early days.

I know I'm not the only one who loves, adores and cherishes Persephone books - so I'm handing over this week on Stuck-in-a-Book to a celebration of Persephone! To kick off we're going to be find out people's favourite Persephone book, and the one they really want to read. Here's a link to all of them, in case you need reminding - once you've decided, comment with 1.)your favourite one, 2.)the one you want to read. If you've not read any (and where have you been for the last ten years?) just do number 2.) - and at the end of Persephone Birthday Week I'll send someone's choice to them. How exciting!

And while we're at it, if you also love Persephone Books, why not tell us how you found Persephone in the first place?

I'll kick off proceedings -
1.) Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton remains my favourite
2.) I've not read A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair yet - my copy is currently with a friend in Liverpool, so I'll be reading it before too long!

Get commenting. And pass round the party hats.


  1. Well Simon, you already know the answer to this one - my favourite is The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. I don't have one I want to read as all the ones I have wanted to read I have bought as they came out.

    I remember going to a Persephone talk in the very early days when the office was in Clerkenwell and ended up staying behind and stuffing envelopes. I think I was more or less with them since the beginning, receiving the Quarterly No 1 when it came out and have been collecting and reading ever since. I have just checked and I have 50 of them on my shelves and I would say that out of those 50 at least 35 have been totally enjoyed with the other 15 a mixture.

    Happy Birthday Persephone!

  2. First, I have to say that I've only recently discovered your blog and have spent time pursuing the titles in your 50 books you must read list. I've added several titles to my TBR list.
    I actually only discovered Persephone about a year ago. So late to the party! I don't actually own any Persephone titles yet but dream of they day I will have shelves full of them. Right now I have to content myself with the titles I can find at the library, which sadly is not very many. I just read Miss Buncle's book last week and was delighted with it. The copy I read was really old and had library due dates stamped in it from the 1930s.
    Since I am so new to Persephone there are several titles I am eager to read. The two that I am currently trying to track down copies of are Good Evening, Mrs Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes and Saplings by Noel Streatfeild.

  3. Like Elaine, my favorite Persephone is The Homemaker by DCF. The bittersweet story of role reversal (husband/wife) rings just as true today (I think) as it did when it was written. A dear friend (now deceased) who lived in London introduced me to Persephone many years ago and I have about 25 of their books. Happy Birthday, Persephone!

  4. Hi Simon! My favourite is
    Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
    by Winifred Watson and
    I'd like to read
    Someone at a Distance
    by Dorothy Whipple.
    I came across Persephone Books through your blog!! and I actually had my local library buy Family Roundabout. :o)
    Happy Birthday from Sweden!/Pia C

  5. Hello!
    The only Persephone title I've ever read is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; I read about the book on Amazon before the movie came out while searching for books to read. I read it on Interlibrary Loan and have coveted a Persephone of my own ever since! The title I want to read is Tea With Mr. Rochester, it sounds wonderful!


  6. I discovered Persephone when doing one of my idle websearches for "textiles" or something similar. So it was the endpapers that dragged me in. I received a copy of P Quarterly which led me to joining an online group of Persephonistas, attending the 2nd Persephone Seminar at Cambridge and meeting some of those wonderful people face to face.
    You know who you are! Tecnology and social networking moved on and most of that group morphed into bloggers and now I have to get up each morning, before I go to bed in order to read all their posts on their blogs. I'm shattered before I walk out of the door to work.
    Simon here is one of that original group although I have not yet had the pleasure of a close encounter.

    I love "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day"because it is so charming and slim, an attribute that both Simon and I appreciate.

    The Homemaker provides food for thought but the book that really made me think was "The World That Was Ours". Just imagine that you could be arrested for the literature and personal scribbles that were in your own home. It is spine-chilling even now when I think about it. It's not just you that will suffer for your reading/writing tastes but your dependents, staff, friends etc.

  7. I have known about Persephone ever since they published Noel Streatfeild's Saplings, but only started buying in the last five or six years. I haven't read all the ones I own yet, but my favourite is definitely Miss Buncle's Book. I want to read (or re-read) all of them, but top of the list is A Very Great Profession, which I have wanted for years - I was overjoyed to see they were reprinting it.

  8. I also came to the Persephone party late and found them around May last year through Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. So far I have 15 of the lovely covers on my bookshelves and haven't read them all yet but from the ones I have I would say that Lady Rose & Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson is my favourite followed very closely by Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple.

    The Persephone title I am most looking forward to reading is The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett but it has been reprinting for quite a while now and I am growing very impatient as I have wanted to read it from my discovery of them.

    Happy Birthday, Persephone!

  9. My story is so long that I've had to give it its own post on Cornflower Books (shameless plug!), but thankyou for the prompt, Simon.
    As to favourites, Mollie PD, Dorothy Whipple, The Home-Maker, and I fancy reading Fidelity or Miss Buncle's Book.

  10. The one I've enjoyed most is not a novel but No.62, How To Run Your Home Without Help. I love old housekeeping books. Most wanted: No.76 The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby. I've known South Riding for years but haven't read this and enjoyed hearing it on the radio recently.

  11. I found out about Persephone early on through reading an article on them online in The Independent. I went to their website and was delighted that they shipped to Canada (at very reasonable rates)and I've been a fan ever since. At last count, I think I own 70 books. My favourites have been William: An Englishman, Little Boy Lost, Kitchen Essays and Manja. The one I most want to read is The Village.

  12. I first found Persephones in John Sandoe's remarkable bookshop in Chelsea. Their bindings could be seen clear across the room, and I browsed, and bought several. I know that I got two or three "Pettigrews" as Christmas presents, and once I had read it myself, got a few more; it must have been my default present that year! My favourites have been "The Shuttle", "The making of a Marchioness", and "A Far Cry" by Emma Smith, but I don't think there's ever been a dud title IMHO.
    I would love to decorate a "boudoir" in that wonderful grey-with-a-touch-of-violet and have all my Persephones together in it, but that entails winning the Lottery first!

  13. My mother bought the very first Persephone books after hearing Nichola give a talk at a literary festival about her new publishing venture. She gave me one as a present. Unfortunately it was Mariana and I didn't much care for it! Later I discovered the Dorothy whipple books and became hooked. I own about 25 Persephone books. My favourite is 'Kitchen Essays' because it si beautifully evokes a vanished way of life. I'd like to read 'Miss Buncle's Book'
    Deb W

  14. I found Persephone a few years back and have to say, I have yet to read a dud. This makes recommending them in the shop an absolute doddle.

    My favourite has been The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. And next up, I rather fancy The Children who lived in a Barn.

  15. I'm sad to say I've apparently been under a rock (or stuck in too many other books), and I've not read any on the list! There are several now on my TBR list, but tops would be The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Thanks for introducing Persephone to me!

  16. Thanks Simon, I welcome any chance to celebrate Persephone books - they have given me such pleasure, both reading and in simply handling the books themselves, and enjoying the beautiful end papers. And the bookmarks...
    My favourites will have to be the stories of Mollie Panter Downes, The Fortnight in September by R C Sherriff and Housebound by Winifred Peck. Don't make me choose between them; whittling my favourites down to three was hard enough. And I would love to read A Very Great Profession, and The Shuttle - when next I feel like treating myself. I first came across Persephone books when I saw someone sitting opposite me on the train reading Good Evening Mrs Craven and since then I have enjoyed all the books I have bought, and look forward to the Quarterly Reviews.

  17. I first discovered these books seven or eight years ago when I heard Nicola Beauman speak at a reading festival, and I have been hooked ever since!!

    My favourite is 'Someone at a Distance' and the book I wish to read is 'Miss Buncles Book' which sounds an interesting read

  18. Since it was you who intoroduced me to Persephone books, I have to thank you for that!

    I think my favourite is 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' by Winifred Watson, although 'The Victorian Chaise Longue' by Marghanita Laski runs a very close second.
    The one I want to read next is
    'Cheerful Weather for the Wedding'
    by Julia Strachey - it sounds fascinating!

  19. I'm ashamed to confess that I've not read a single Persephone--although, thanks to Bookmooch, I now have three on my shelf waiting to be read (Family Roundabout, The Village, and Housebound).

    So many people have mentioned the Homemaker as a favorite that I'd had to say it's the one I'd most like to add to my collection.

  20. I discovered Persephone through the british_fiction community on LJ. Last June the maintainer asked if there were any Virago or Persephone collectors among us, and the rest is history.

    So far I have bought 10 Persephone books. I have only read two titles so far, The Fortnight in September and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I liked the first one, but was so disappointed by the latter that I sold it!

    Strangely enough (because I usually read novels) I find I'm most attracted to the short story collections. I own the ones by Margaret Bonham and Elizabeth Berridge, and the wartime stories of MPD, and have my eye on the Diana Gardner.

    I also love the look of the Classics (I bought Someone at a Distance because of the gorgeous cover, even though Dorothy Whipple does not really appeal to me) and will definitely buy Cheerful Weather for the Wedding.

  21. I own several Persephone titles, almost as many non-fiction as novels. I'm currently half-way through Nicola Beauman's own A very great profession - coincidentally I was reading the chapter on feminism as Bettany Hughes radio 4 programme "Call yourself a feminist" came on the radio. I loved Miss Pettigrew lives for a Day, and I also loved D E Stevenson's Miss Buncle's Book, althoughI read it many years ago, in a hardback version. Nice to see it re-published. D E Stevenson was one of my comfort reads in the past.

  22. So far my favourite is Noel Streatfeild's Saplings, which I thought wonderfully evocative, but I loved Kitchen Essays (like callmemadam I really enjoy old housekeeping books and want to acquire all the Persephones). Next in my list is Miss Buncle's Book, it sounds blissful.

  23. I confess I was disappointed by Miss Pettigrew lives for a day, which I know puts me in a minority.

    Moving on, my favourite Persephone so far is The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

  24. In a file I have kept on reading matters for many years is an article which appeared in a Sunday colour magazine about Nicola Beauman and her new publishing house. I admired the books, the covers alone just made me drool but never owned or even saw the actual books until last year when I read an article in the Financial Times which told me of the Notting Hill branch of Persephone. As I was working nearby I set out that very afternoon to discover this tiny gem of a shop. Needless to say I was completely bowled over and my first purchase was Few Eggs and No Oranges [no9]which remains my favourite. Subsequent visits have been made and to the Conduit Lamb Street shop as well whenever work takes me to that part of London. Try keeping me away!
    The book I would like next is Little Boy Lost- Margarita Laski. I read this as a class reader aged 11 and although I can recall the books cover its contents are lost in the recesses of my memory. Happy Birthday Persephone, I shall be visiting soon as work once more brings me to Notting Hill. Hurrah.

  25. Congratulations Donnafugata, you've won! Email me on with your address and choice of Persephone book, and I'll get it off to you. All best - Simon

  26. Thank you so much, Simon - what a treat. Have emailed my choice to you, and look forward to receiving it. Your blog is always a pleasure to read, so many thanks from a grateful reader.

  27. Congratulations on the comment in Persephone's fortnightly letter! Your blog inspired the other Persephone tributes. It's been a fun week of blog reading about one of my favourite imprints.


I've now moved to, and all my old posts are over there too - do come and say hello :)

I probably won't see your comment here, I'm afraid, but all my archive posts can also be found at