A Latecomer to the Festivities

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!

11 comments

  1. Oh – the joy of a Persephone Book. I am deeply envious of your collection of Persephone titles in other editions. That copy of They Were Sisters is wonderful – I love Dorothy Whipple.Taking joy in small things is absolutely what it is all about. Surely there is nothing better than a cup of tea, lemon drizzle cake and a good book?

  2. Wonderful post, Rachel! It sums up our love of Persephone so completely. Of the everyday is indeed what it is about. In July I read The Crowded Street with a cup of tea and mini strawberry tarts and it seemed so quintessentially Persephone and the way I should read all Persephones from now on (varying the cakes, of course).

  3. Such a lovely, lovely post Rachel and I so enjoyed browsing through the photos of your books. I have yet to discover another reader of Persephone titles in my community so I'm thankful for such a wonderful group here in blogland. There are indeed touching qualities that these books impart but there is one that is not so virtuous and it is greed. I keep wanting more even though there are unread copies on my shelf!

  4. Brilliant post Rachel. You've expressed what Persephone Books are and why we are drawn to them (and each other) perfectly! I wonder if Nicola has seen this blog…I'm sure it'd make a wonderful quote in the next biannually. And while I love the dove grey books, there's something about rescuing an abandoned older edition of the same classic that makes one's heart skip a beat.

  5. Being newly introduced to Persephone, I can see the appeal, and you sum it up so well. I don't think I would ever have discovered these authors for myself. Having grown up in Southeast Asia, I've only been familiar with well-known classics like Jane Austen or the Brontes. I've been relying on prize-winning lists for most of my reading for years. Reading Persephones is a breath of fresh air.

  6. Naomi – Oooh lemon drizzle is my favourite! Glad you like the books, that They Were Sisters is one of my favourite book designs that I own, its so beautiful isn't it?Claire – Thank you very much! I definitely think eating cake whilst reading Persephone books should become a law, and that will remove all cake eating induced guilt when I am on my fourth slice! Darlene – Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I definitely agree on the greed front – I can't stop looking out for Persephones wherever I go, though out of my grey ones I only have three that are unread so I am doing alright!Heather – You are too kind! I can't imagine myself in the Biannually! What an honour that would be! I totally agree – there's nothing like chancing upon an old hardback of a Persephone…and it always happens to me when I am least expecting it! Claire – Welcome! Thanks for coming over to my blog. I am so glad you have found Persephones, you are in good company!

  7. Rachel – You are a kindred spirit truly and I have added you to my blogroll as I want people who visit my blog to pop over here as well because they will love it too. Delighted to see you have the same edition of They were Sisters and the Shuttle as I as well as the Persephone ones. I see you are reading the De Willoughby Claim, I have yet to tackle that one but over the last few weeks have re-read several FG Burnett, including Little Lord Fauntleroy, which I loved all over again.I agree with every word you say in your post about the importance of family and home and happiness. I also note that you love most of the things I do – and yes, Persephone does seem to act as a catalyst for all such minded people, no matter what their age or circumstances. A lovely and thoughtful post. thank you

  8. Bravo Rachel! What a wonderful post. You have summed up what many of us feel about Persephones. And ooh, I envy your original of They Were Sisters (my favourite Whipple novel).

  9. Lovely! And I like your idea to have all the Persephone non-Persephones together – inspiring me to do the same thing, which I'll post in a few days' time.

  10. Thank you so much Elaine, I am very touched by your kind comments! We do seem to be kindred spirits indeed. See my latest post for my review of the De Willoughby Claim!Thank you Astrid and Verity!Simon, I'd love to see your non Persephone Persephones picture! I look forward to your post!

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