Saturday 14 March 2009

Suggest a Persephone...

Simon S (of Savidge Reads) asks which Persephone Books I'd recommend - well, there's a question!

We've all been putting our favourites in the comments of this post, so lots of good ideas there, but I'll put a few of my suggestions in this post, briefly. The little images are the endpapers for the book.

Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton
The book that brought me to Persephone, this tale of two families with very different matriachs is told, as with all Crompton's novels, in a way that makes compulsive reading as well as presenting a large but very memorable cast of characters. Crompton isn't always a world-class prose stylist, if you take chunks in isolation, but her novels are filled with fascinating characters and addictive to read.

Hostages to Fortune by Elizabeth Cambridge
This Oxfordshire novel is all about a family quietly struggling to bring up their children and maintain the marriage they envisioned at the beginning. Beautifully and simply written, this is
another novel without an overly dramatic plot, but an incredible understanding of human characer.

Tea With Mr. Rochester by Frances Towers
Persephone's range of short story collections don't always get the attention they deserve. I've not yet read the celebrated collections by Elizabeth Berridge and Mollie Panter-Downes, but can heartily recommend Frances Towers' delicate gems of stories - comparisons with Katherine Mansfield are not unjustified. I found 'The Chosen and The Rejected' especially poignant. And yes, the title does refer to the Mr. Rochester.

The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski
A chilling novella in which a woman, lying on her chaise-longue in the 1950s, is transported to the 1860s. Evocative and atmospheric and memorable, this book also has a striking message and is brilliantly written. And you know how I love short books.

There Were No Windows by Norah Hoult
Based on a real author and her descent into dementia, this novel might sound cheerless but actually combines a sombre topic with a real wittiness - entirely respectful to the illness and its victims, but refusing to quash laughter at life.

So, there you are, a few of my favourites from the past few years - I love so many of them that these were just the first to spring to mind. I talked about Someone at a Distance the other day, and Dorothy Whipple is probably the best 'way in' to Persephone and the most representative, but any of these five would also work a treat.


  1. Hi I had to laugh at your comment on my Nicholas Hely Hutchinson post. Definitely go for a discount I say. How lovely to be in Oxford with those great bookshops, especially Blackwells Art Bookshop - lucky you.

  2. Oh thanks for doing this, I am going to be adding them to my birthday list for next week lol.

    I am gonna watch Miss Pettigrew tonight, I have postponed it... or maybe Sunday afternoon. Cheers again for doing that Simon!

  3. I'm dying to read all of these! It's probably a high-level crime that I have never actually read a Persephone book... Top of the 'to read' list currently are Dorothy Whipple and Elizabeth Cambridge.


  4. I would also recommed two little blogged about "mens'" Persephone books: Julian Grenfell by Nicholas Mosley and Operation Heartbreak
    by Duff Cooper.

  5. If you enjoyed the stories in the Persephone edition of "Tea with Mr Rochester" you might be interested in seeking out the original Penguin. My 1952 reprint has an additional four stories that were dropped for the Persephone edition. They are "'Turns into Yellow Gold His Salt Green Streams'", "Mrs Egerton", "What Must Be, Shall Be" and "The Keys of Heaven". I enjoyed the Persephone copy so much that when I saw an older edition in a second-hand shop I picked it up out of curiosity. I was then shocked to find that so much had been cut! If anyone knows why, or of any other edited Persephones (apart from "The Shuttle"), please make it public! I came across this post when searching for information about other abridgements, and thought better late than never!


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