Persephone Books is back from holiday and all is as normal (except we are closed next Saturday August 30th). The October books have just arrived: they will be published officially on October 23rd and the new Biannually sent out on October 20th. Also the new Classic edition of The Home-Maker
and the Persephone Diary for 2015 are in and are already for sale – there seemed no point in embargoing them because of some artificial publication date. Lastly, the reprints of Julian Grenfell, The Shuttle and The Persephone Book of Short Stories have been delivered; so now the next books in the queue to be reprinted are The Montana Stories, They Can’t Ration These, The Fortnight in September (yes, it’s a pity that it will be out during September this year) and Miss Buncle Married.
All the Persephone girls have managed to read several novels apiece while on holiday, almost every one of them of a nicely middlebrow nature (the New York Times ran a good article about the middlebrow here). The best book of the lot (surely? please put forward rival bests) was The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler
(who has something of Meg Wolitzer about her and no greater praise can one give). Naturally The Bookstore is not on the Booker Longlist, although the much less good We are All Completely Beside Ourselves is firmly on it, presumably as a sop to women readers. Buy The Bookstore straightaway people, you will love it (yes, it’s now among the Fifty Books we Wish we had Published). Also read this funny (sassy, even if we don’t use the word much any more) autobiographical piece and the blog post that went up recently. It begins thus: ‘It is on my mind that children and teenagers don’t know anything about what is happening in the world – NOTHING!!! When I was little, we sometimes watched John Craven’s Newsround and then the six o’clock news would come on. Now, we don’t have a TV, and this is supposed to be a good thing…’ She concludes that all schools should have 45 minutes of current affairs a week, which of course they should (and what about bringing Newsround back again?). Relevant anecdote: my great-niece recently went with my nephew to Germany where my father and grandfather
were being commemorated by a stolpersteine set in to the pavement – there are now 45,000 commemorating former Jewish inhabitants. My nephew wrote: ‘The Mayor of Frankethal, Herr Theo Wieder, made a very good speech in which he emphasised the importance of learning from the past. “We have enjoyed a long period of peace in Europe, but events in the world around us show how fragile this is –we must understand through knowledge of history the necessity as individuals to make moral choices.” Laura said to me later that her history lessons at her (British) school are just about facts – and how much better it would be for it to be about ethical responsibility too.’ So true, so true. And of course if there is one thing above all others we hope Persephone books are about, even if remotely or tangentially, it is ethical responsibility/ moral values..
We are loving it and in fact work stops at noon at Persephone Books so that we can all listen (odd to think that it’s going to run for four years). The Guardian ran a review of Philippa Lewis’s excellent book Everyman’s Castle about English domestic architecture, and there was a panegyric by AN Wilson in the Telegraph in June.
On Saturday September 27th at 2 o’clock Persephone Books will be appearing at Charleston’s Small Wonder Festival with Diana Athill, author of Persephone Book No. 92 Midsummer Night in the Workhouse and of course one of the contributing authors to The Persephone Book of Short Stories. There is going to be a three part television drama about the Bloomsbury Group
and a film
about the Indian mathematician Ramanujan, based on the rather wonderful book by David Leavitt called The Indian Clerk (thoroughly recommended); it stars Jeremy Irons.
In the Guardian column A Book that Changed Me (btw, why don’t they ever ask women to choose a book that changed them?) John Crace wrote eloquently about Rebecca (permanently in our Fifty Books we Wish we had Published) and David Kynaston wrote wisely and tenderly about Howards End (David is writing the Preface to Mollie Panter-Downes’s London War Notes which we publish in April next year).
Very sadly a good friend to Persephone, Sue Rees, died last week. Sue happened to be in the shop on 9/11 helping out and my goodness was she helpful as the ghastly news came in; she envelope-stuffed twice a year, she helped at the Country Living Fair (we shall be there this year and will miss her very much) and, most importantly, through Sue’s flourishing book groups she made many people aware of Persephone who might otherwise not have known us. There was another death: Candida Lycett Green, John Betjeman’s daughter, who did many wonderful things in her life and in particular wrote a column called Unwrecked England which became a marvelous book (at the moment only available as an e-book from Hive although a new paperback edition is on the way).
On five fortnightly Saturdays beginning on October 4th, at City College, Brighton and Hove, Sarah Tobias will continue her course called The Novel as Social History. This coming term the emphasis will be on the Edwardian period and one of the novels under discussion will be William – an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton (which will also be the subject of the Persephone Book Group on September 3rd at 6.30). Finally, on 16th October Professor Janet Todd will give a lecture at St Pancras Old Church at 7 pm about Mary Wollstonecraft, ‘the most famous female political author of the revolutionary period, one of a group of literary women involved in political debates about society during the Enlightenment’:
59 Lambs Conduit Street