‘In the second part we are transported to a more peaceful and tranquil look at London. It can often be strange to be on a packed Underground train one minute and then finding yourself on a peaceful hill overlooking the world. Alex Barrett captures this perfectly, showing the contrast between the busy and the calm.’ Here is a short video about the making of this extraordinary film (which was made on a shoestring and needs our financial support: we sell it in the shop of course.) This is the London Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park.


London Symphony (2017) is a black and white silent film by Alex Barrett. It is a love letter to a great city, and is now available on dvd or by download, e.g.. from the BFI. ‘The first part gives a close up look at the buildings and the ever changing face of London from old buildings to new. It’s a landscape that looks familiar and yet always has something new popping up and the construction never ends’ (Vulture Hound). (This week in the shop window we have two London transport posters and some of our London books; more details on Instagram later today.)

Susan Glaspell and typewriter

Susan Glaspell (1876-1948) posed at her typewriter. She was born in Iowa where she set much of her fiction. We publish two novels: Brook Evans and Fidelity, but if you have to choose just one do add Fidelity to your reading list. It is one of the great American novels exploring huge themes of sex and desire and freedom for women and should really be on the syllabus at every high school in the US. SG won the Pulitzer for one of her plays, Alison’s House, based on the life of the poet Emily Dickinson (who is called Alison Stanhope in the play) and shows Glaspell’s interest in the legacy and legitimisation of the reputations of women writers (a very ‘Persephone’ theme); it can be read here.

Monica Dickens

Even though we publish two of her (many) novels, Monica Dickens (1915-1992) is possibly still best known for her non-fiction: after drama school she was a debutante before working as a cook; One Pair of Hands (1939), her first book, described life in the kitchens of Kensington. Her first novel, PB No. 2 Mariana (1940), is a coming-of-age novel set in West London: full of charm and laughs, it is a firm Persephone favourite. PB No. 90, The Winds of Heaven, is about a widow and her three (all vaguely terrible) daughters. Here is Monica Dickens as a nurse at the hospital in Windsor she worked at during the Second World War (which became the inspiration for One Pair of Feet, 1942).


At a village fete in Norfolk last weekend we found a stack of well-read paperbacks by DE Steveson: someone was having one of those reluctant bookshelf clear-outs. One of them may well be being drafted in this photograph: Dorothy Emily Steveson (1892-73) wrote nearly fifty ‘light’ novels, all of them beloved by her readers. Known particuarly for the Mrs Tim books and the Miss Buncle books, DES excelled at writing charming and memorable central characters.


Barbara Noble (1907-2001) was born in North London. From 1914 onwards her family lived in Brighton, where she was taught at home by her mother. She always wanted to be a writer but her first novel was rejected by thirteen publishers; when The Years that Take the Best Away appeared when she was 22 it was a huge critical success. After her second novel came out she moved to London, went to secretarial college and for nearly twenty years worked very happily at 20th Century-Fox, first as a typist, then as a scriptreader and, after 1939, as London story editor buying film rights. Four more novels appeared, including Doreen (1946) about a girl evacuated from the East End of London to the country during the Second World War. From 1953-73 Barbara Noble ran the London office of the American publishing house, Doubleday, becoming one of the most esteemed figures in London publishing and presiding over a very happy all-women office; she continued as a freelance editor after her retirement.

Betty and Emanuel Rottingdean 1938

By popular demand: more photographs of our authors on the Post this week. This is Betty Miller (1910-65) in Rottingdean with her husband Emanuel in 1938. Her novel Farewell Leicester Square (1941), PB No. 15, is about a Jewish film-maker in London in the 1930s but begins in Sussex; Alec Berman grows up on the Western Road in Hove, dreaming of working on film sets whilst his brother plays in the arcades on the Brighton Pier. One of Betty Miller’s grandsons has written a new memoir, so you can read more about some of her descendants in the Observer here. (Betty and Emanuel had a daughter, Sarah, and a son, the opera director Jonathan Miller).


Winifred Watson (born in 1907 and brought up in Newcastle), author of the book which remains our bestseller Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; the film of which was released almost exactly ten years ago in August 2008. A reminder that the radio adaptation is currently up on BBC iPlayer, read brilliantly by Maureen Lipman.

Jocelyn Playfair copy

Here Jocelyn Playfair (1904-96) looks very much the daughter of a Lieutenant-Colonel and wife of a decorated Major-General; scarf neatly tied, not a hair out of place. Yet her novel, PB No. 32 A House in the Country (1942), is a careful questioning of why countries go to war. Written, of course, in the moment of a global war when no-one knew what the outcome would be. It’s also incredibly romantic. Why oh why hasn’t it been adapted for the screen?

Dorothy Canfield copy

This photograph of Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879-1958) is in fact up on the website. It is also reprinted in both the grey and the classic edition of her book PB No.7 The Home-maker so most readers of the Persephone Post will have seen it before. But in all honesty we couldn’t not put it up again here because it is such a captivating photograph. Incidentally, we have written up The Home-maker for the Toast website which is full of captivating photographs too… we have decided that we’ll be wearing long belted skirts and fair isle sweaters come autumn.

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