As much as I loved getting away from it all in Bath last week, I was disappointed that my holiday clashed with Persephone Reading Week, and I couldn’t take part as I would have liked to. I’m now caught up on all of the action, however, and I have taken great joy in exploring everyone’s reviews, many of Persephones I have not read, and observations on Persephone Books in general. Thank you, Verity and Claire, for organising such an enjoyable event, and I can’t wait for next year’s already!
Persephone is a rarity in that, as much as it is a publishing house, it is also like a private club; those who empathise with the ethos of Persephone and fall in love with the books it prints are drawn into the company of others who feel the same, and find that they have much more in common than just an adoration of these elegantly packaged forgotten gems. An online community has sprung up; friendships have been formed, books have been sent across oceans to keep the Persephoneless fed, new literary loves have been found, all because of one woman’s passion for ‘silly woman novelists’. And aren’t we all immensely grateful for her passion, and for the day we all separately came across the existence of a charming little shop down a sidestreet in Bloomsbury?
Persephone’s carefully chosen novels are so important to me because they express my outlook on life. The importance of a comfortable home, a loving family, loyal friends; of courage in the face of adversity; of love; of laughter; of taking joy in the small things – stopping to notice the beauty of a tree in its autumn splendour, the pleasure of eating a freshly made cake, the happiness that comes from giving someone else a reason to smile, and of embracing life with everything we have and understanding that happiness is not something to be pursued, but instead a state that everyone can live in, when they accept and enjoy the life they have, rather than the one they have not.
Persephone books contain the stuff of life itself; of real life, of the everyday, in all its mundanity and dullness, of all its disappointments and lack of glamour, and perhaps it is because of this that they fell out of favour and so out of print, necessitating their rescue by a modern audience desperate to read about characters who have lives like theirs, rather than the sensation driven, beautiful people filled books with Happy Endings that seem to have saturated the market in the post war years. For as much as life is wonderful, and glorious, and joyful, it is also tedious and dull at times, and it is good, no; marvellous, to know that I am not the only one who looks across the rooftops of London whilst doing yet another load of washing up and wonders…is there more for me out there than this?
And so it is always with great delight that I pick up a new Persephone, as I can be safe in the knowledge that I will enjoy it, and there will be someone, somewhere to discuss it with afterwards. That someone will probably also have enjoyed it, and will also love many of the other things I do; crafts, art, museums, theatre, travels, obscure authors…this is not to say that those of us who love Persephone are not a diverse bunch, not at all; but we all do seem to share many core interests, which is a wonderful illustration of how well Nicola Beauman and her team have encompassed a certain lifestyle, set of interests and general attitude towards life in choosing the novels they have decided to print. What a feat they have achieved.
I have included photos of my Persephone collection, including Persephone titles in other editions. I hope you enjoy them!