Persephone Books LTD
59 Lamb’s Conduit Street
London WC1N 3NB
A few weeks ago, I took a train to London to see all the sights, drink all the coffee, and speak all the English. There were only a few things that I was dead-set on doing, and visiting Persephone Books was one of them.
Persephone Books is a feminist bookstore which reprints “neglected novels, diaries, poetry, and cookery books, mostly by women and mostly dating from the early to mid-twentieth century” (as per their catalogue). It’s quaint, homely, and not too far from the Russell Square Station. It’s the perfect place to go on a rainy day, if only to peruse their selections.
Most books are £12, or £30 for three. With every book, you get a matching bookmark, and if you buy six books, you get a free tote bag! This combination for me was a blessing and a curse–books and tote bags are going to my downfall one day.
I’m truly excited to begin these novels. In reprinting these works, Persephone has opened the world up once more to lost and forgotten authors. There’s war, family drama, crime, but most of all, there’s a lot of love that these books have to offer. I’m ready to love them back.
With that being said, let’s begin! Here are the great reads that I bought (using the numbers which correspond to the book):
No. 28: Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski – Hilary Wainwright, an English soldier, returns to a blasted and impoverished France during World War Two in order to trace a child lost five years before. But is this small, quiet boy in a grim orphanage really his son? And what if he is not? In this exquisitely crafted novel, we follow Hilary’s struggle to love in the midst of a devastating war. ISBN: 978-1-903155-17-2
No. 42: The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding – A suburban matron, harassed by wartime domestic problems – her husband is overseas – finds herself implicated in the murder of her young daughter’s extremely unattractive beau. This novel is about maternal love and about the heroine’s relationship with those around her, especially her children and her maid. ISBN: 978-1-903155-32-5
No. 44: Tea With Mr. Rochester by Frances Towers – A collection of 10 short stories described as delicate and poignant. ISBN: 978-1-903155-34-9
No. 51: Operation Heartbreak by Duff Cooper – Willie Maryngton always wanted to go to war. But he was born just too late to see action in the first world war, and it was a long wait until the second. Would he ever have his chance to be a hero? ISBN: 978-1-903155-41-7
No. 53: Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary by Ruby Ferguson – The Countess of Lochlule marries Sir Hector, owner of the estate next to ‘Keepsfield’, the palatial Scottish mansion where she lives. But one day she meets someone on a park bench in Edinburgh. This novel is about dreams and the hard world of money and position and their relations to one another. ISBN: 978-1-903155-43-1
No. 59: There Were No Windows – Norah Hoult – This 1944 novel is about memory loss and is the only book we know of, apart from Iris about Iris Murdoch (and arguably There Were No Windows is wittier and more profound), on this subject. Based on the last years of the writer Violet Hunt, a once-glamorous woman living in Kensington during the Blitz who is now losing her memory, the novel’s three ‘acts’ describe with insight, humour and compassion what happens to ‘Claire Temple’ in her last months. ISBN: 978-1-903155-49-3
And that’s what I bought! I think it’s very important to visit authors you normally wouldn’t, especially forgotten women authors! As much as I respect the classics, there truly is something gratifying about discovering something you never would have expected. Hopefully some of these looked just as interesting to you as they did to me, and I’ll be sure to put a review of each one up as soon as I read them!