Friday 27 May 2011

Possibly Persephone? (redux)

Coming to you a bit late, my report on the Possibly Persephone? event - and when I say 'report', you will soon see that it descends (or perhaps ascends) into a long list of books.

Claire (Paperback Reader) and I met outside her work at 5.30pm and headed along to the Persephone Books shop on Lamb's Conduit Street. I had wondered quite how we'd fit everyone into a fairly smallish shop - the answer being that we'd simply crowd in and be friendly! Nicola Beauman greeted us at the door, and we set about drinking madeira ("have some madeira, m'dear" was mentioned) which was delicious, and settling down for a fun evening. By the time everyone arrived there were probably about 15 of us, lovely folk one and all, and exactly the sort of bookish people with whom it is a delight to spend an evening.

Nicola kicked off proceedings by telling us briefly how often people recommend books, and how Persephone set about finding, reading, and thinking about these suggestions. She even unveiled a very tantalising folder filled with print outs and letters, containing suggestions - so many authors unknown to me, and so many potential gems.

And then we went round in the circle, giving our suggested titles and defending them. I was madly scribbling down everything I heard, although I can't remember plots etc. for that many of them. You already know about Mr. Pim Passes By - Nicola pointed out that Vintage and Capuchin have both brought out Milne titles recently, which would make AAM difficult to market as one of Persephone's authors, but we will wait and see... After the suggestions was some general chat, with many of us saying novels we love which are out of print, until Nicola must have felt under an avalanche. The first of these below were the suggestions; after Ann Valery's book it's a list of (some of) those which were mentioned at all.

If you want to know more about any of these books, and can't find anything by Googling etc., then I'll do my best to remember something! Or if you know something about them, do yell.

--Miss Penny & Miss Plum - Dorothy Evelyn Smith
--Summer in the Greenhouse - Elizabeth Maver
--The Blue Castle - L.M. Montgomery
--Earth and Water - Sheelagh Kinelli
--The Woman's Book - ed. Philippa Preston
--Memories of a Militant - Annie Kenney
--Peter Abelard - Helen Waddell
--The Wedding - Denis Mackail
--At the Top of the Muletrack - Carola Matthews
--Kirsteen - Margaret Oliphant
--Westwood - Stella Gibbons
--Miss Linsey and Pa - Stella Gibbons
--Baron von Kodak, Shirley Temple, and Me - Ann Valery
--The Wheel Spins - Ethel Lina White
--Diminishing Circles - Barbara Rees
--Harriet Dark: Branwell Brontes lost novel - Barbara Rees
--A Step Out of Time - Betty Askwith
--Guard Your Daughters - Diana Tutton
--Camera! - Joan Morgan
--Faster! Faster! - E.M. Delafield
--Cometh up like a Flower - Rhoda Broughton
--Laughing Mountains - Kay Lynn
--Harriet - Elizabeth Jenkins
--Miss Tiverton Goes Out - A.M. Champneys


  1. I didn't know that Helen Waddell, a brilliant scholar and translator of medieval Latin, had written a novel about Abelard, so thanks for alerting me to that. I've ordered a secondhand copy.

  2. The Wheel Spins. I recently read a new reissue of this one, which was made into the Hitchcock movie, The Lady Vanishes.

    I got it from the Toronto Public Library. HOWEVER... now that I'm searching for it, I can't find evidence of any recent reissue other than a Large Print 2006 and an ebook edition, neither of which was the one I read. There's no such book at TPL.

    Ooooo. The Book Vanishes?

  3. Simon, this is fascinating! Thank you so much! I would have loved to have heard Nicola's talk. Thank you for the list of books as well - I shall be looking out for some of these. I've heard that Guard Your Daughters is very good...might order that one!

  4. What an intriguing list! I adore book lists where I've only read one - or even better, none! - of the titles. In this case, the only title I've familiar with is The Blue Castle, of which I'm not particularly a fan despite my childhood passion for L.M. Montgomery. I have to say the one book on this list that really jumps out at me is The Wedding because I'm never going to refuse anything by Denis Mackail, but I'm definitely intrigued to find out more about the others! Thanks so much for reporting back to us on this event!

  5. Oh, I wish I could have gone! And now I have a whole new list of titles to explore. But isn't The Blue Castle still in print? I know I've seen new copies for sale online. I bought one a couple of years ago, but I haven't read it yet, probably because it has a horrible cheese romance novelish cover. Bleah!

  6. I love The Blue Castle, and it is a Persephone-ish (or dovish!) novel, but I think it is still in print. The only other ones I've read are Faster! Faster!, which didn't grab me (sorry Simon!) and Peter Abelard, which is wonderful.

  7. The Blue Castle is in print in some quarters of the world but not in the UK (and not with a dove-grey jacket). Besides which L.M. Montgomery is out of copyright so anyone can publish her work.

    Thank you for coming we me, Simon; it was a lovely evening.

  8. Oh, hurrah! Thank you for posting this list, Simon. I didn't take any notes on Wednesday evening, and I've been wishing that I had.

  9. The makings of a fun evening! It would be great news to have more Delafield easily available.

  10. I'd pay good money for the Annie Kenney, Vintage are publishing 'Westwood' in the autumn, Kirsteen would be wonderful and I'd like the chance to get my hands on some Rhoda Broughton as well as anything at all by E M Delafield. (just in case Nicola is reading, these are the ones I'd buy...)

  11. Sounds like a fascinating discussion. I'm with Claire - there's not a lot here that I'm familiar with. I think I also have a copy of the Blue Castle, but I didn't realize the Montgomery had gone out of copyright and was open to anyone. I learn something new on your blog nearly every day! :)

  12. What a fun night! Someday I hope to get to the Persephone shop! I looked up all the titles on your list but my library doesn't have a single one. I did get Westwood from ILL and have just started reading it--it's being reissued by Vintage UK in the fall I think. There are several more on the list that look interesting--I'll have to try and find out more info. And I loved the movie The Lady Vanishes--I had no idea it was made from a book!

  13. The warm and intimate feeling of the gathering at the Persephone Book Store on Lamb, may, here in the U. S., become a thing of the past, according to a publishing consultant for the big houses of New York. The reason: the meteoric ascension of online and ebook sales. The brick and mortar will be crumbled by them, he says, which is both sad and cruel to those like me who, at least in part, rely on signings, on meeting strangers, to go on writing, day after day.

  14. I haven't heard of any of these books, except for The Blue Castle. And I know I have already recommended it to you and others have probably put in a word as well; but it's a must read. I've loved it since I was 12, and my copy is in three pieces with the cover in two pieces and a page falling out, partly because the binding was so poor but also because I've read it I don't know how many times. It's a delight. Did Nicola give any reason for not printing it?

  15. I bet it was Claire who mentioned the Blue Castle!! one of my favourite LMM books and simply perfect for Persephone

  16. RJR - hope you enjoy it! I'm afraid I'd never heard of her, but everyone else at the meeting (or at least everyone over 50) had loved the book as adolescents.

    Susan D - yes, for some reason I assumed it was awful, but apparently the boo is good, as well as the wonderful Hitchcock film. How odd that the book vanishes! Maybe it was reprinted as The Lady Vanishes?

    Rachel - Wish you'd been there too! I'd love to hear you argue in favour of some much-loved book. Guard Your Daughters is hopefully coming to me from Somerset shelves at some point- though I've asked Mum to test it out first!

    Claire - so many to choose from! I've only read one Denis Mackail (guess which!?) but would like to read others. In fact, I have At Auction (or something similar) by him already.

    Karen - see below for Paperback Reader's answer to your query! Sorry you couldn't be there...

    Rosie - ooo, you should be sorry! I read Faster! Faster! some years ago and thought it was clever and well written - but not remotely like Provincial Lady.

    Claire - I do hope Nicola runs another, it was such fun!

    Sue - you're welcome! I knew I wouldn't want to miss any of the recommendations made by a reliable crowd.

    Darlene - wouldn't it just? I can't believe how someone so good can go out of print - but it happens all the time, doesn't it?

    Hayley - you'd definitely be a reliable customer :) Sue, who recommended the Stella Gibbons, hadn't heard that more were coming out from Vintage, and was rather delighted with the news!

    Susan - haha! I'm glad my blog provides such founts of information :)

    Danielle - you must! Time a visit to the UK to coincide with their next one, you know you want to ;)

    Ward - it's crumbling away a lot in the UK too - it's wonderful companies like Persephone which are helping it survive.

    Virginia - I feel very awful for not having read Anne of Green Gables yet, given it's my Mum's favourite children's book - will have to do so one day! Nicola said she didn't think it was all that good, I'm afraid...

    Elaine - you bet right!

  17. Merryn williams3 June 2011 at 12:08

    It was good to meet you, Simon, and I was delighted to find I am not the only person who likes 'The Blue Castle'. It is the ultimate feel-good novel about a poor squahed woman who finds that there is much more in life than she thought. Mrs Oliphant's 'Kirsteen' was my suggestion; it's a Victorian novel which I succeeded in getting into the World's Classics in 1984, but has gone out of print again since. It's a wonderful book about a Scottish girl more than a century ago who runs away from home and becomes a famous dressmaker in London - the first novel about a career woman, so far as I know. You may be able to find it in your library store.

  18. I'm another Elaine. Blue Castle is my most favoritest book in the entire world. I have two vintage copies. I might let Persephone borrow one. Emphasis on BORROW. I got a bit bored with some/most of LMM's others. Not this a'tall.


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