There are now nearly 100 Persephones to choose from; a practically impossible task, therefore, to pick the one you most want to read at the right moment. I’ve compiled a little list of my recommendations for different moods; hopefully some of you might find it useful this weekend!
What to read when you’re:
Down in the dumps
An obvious, but necessary choice: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, without a doubt. You can’t possibly feel sad after reading about Miss Pettigrew’s transformation from lonely, down on her luck nursery maid to glamorous, gorgeous and confident lady about town. In just twenty four hours, Miss Pettigrew’s life has been changed forever, and her story shows that no cause is ever hopeless, and it is never too late to achieve your dreams. Reading this is like dancing on clouds of candy floss while chocolate buttons rain down on you – it’s a magnificently frothy, lightweight, feel good book that will put a smile on your face and sweeten your mood. What’s not to like?
Stuck indoors on a rainy day:
This happens a lot in England, so I know of what I speak. When it’s wet and grey and depressing outside for the fifth day in a row and you really can’t be bothered to face getting soaked through and faff about with an umbrella, then the sofa becomes your dearest friend, accompanied, of course, with a Persephone, to make you forget those grey skies outside your window. The perfect choice for such days is the lovely A Fortnight in September; it might only be two weeks in Bognor (which isn’t as bad as it sounds, I spent a lovely week there once!), but the simple joy and release the Stevens family find in getting away from their humdrum suburban lives is wonderfully inspiring and heartwarming. It’s pure sunshine for the soul!
Are feeling rubbish at everything:
We all have those days when we feel like a complete and utter failure at life. You oversleep, you miss the train, you’re late for work, you press ‘reply to all’ by mistake, are wearing a hopelessly unflattering outfit, have nothing in the fridge for dinner, and it’s probably raining as well, just to rub things in. Rather than reaching for the ice cream (or really, let’s face it, a bottle of wine), Miss Buncle’s Book can be a great antidote to feelings of total inadequacy. Everyone thought Miss Buncle was a silly old woman and laughed at her – she proved them wrong by writing a bestseller and landing a husband to boot! Miss Buncle is nothing special – she’s just a good hearted woman with a cash flow problem, and she makes the best of what she has and does a very good job of it too. She’s the perfect inspiration for those days when you are feeling less than mediocre.
Need to be reminded that there is good in the world:
Modern life can get you down. It’s a tough world out there, and sometimes, especially when you’re crammed underneath someone’s armpit on the tube/subway, it can all get a bit much. Enter Greenery Street. Greenery Street is one of the most joy filled, positive books I’ve read. It focuses on the wonderful, beautiful things of life; it’s about young newlyweds, freshfaced, hopeful, and in love, and it will restore your faith in humanity and buoy you up with joy. Greenery Street always reminds me that life is good, really, despite all of the rubbish and sadness we often have to put up with. The simple pleasure Ian and Felicity take in each other is so truly lovely, and the feeling I get when I’m reading it is akin to letting go of one hundred colourful balloons and watching them go floating off into the sky; my soul is uplifted.
Are feeling homesick for England:
For those of us Brits who have somehow found ourselves washed up far from the shores of our beloved green and pleasant land, or for those who are simply Anglophiles and long for the damp drizzly island I call home, sometimes you need a healthy dose of quintessential Britishness that won’t be satisfied by just having a cup of tea and a biscuit. On such occassions, you need to reach for a Dorothy Whipple novel. Filled with the uniquely sooty streets of Northern manufacturing towns, rolling hills, stiff upper lips and class divides, they are everything you need to make you feel right at home. Dorothy Whipple’s novels are fantastic microcosms of English life, populated by practical, stoical heroes and heroines, who keep calm and carry on in the face of life’s troubles. I can’t possibly pick a favourite; you must read them all and decide for yourself.
Are in the mood for something a bit different:
So much of modern fiction can begin to feel samey and contrived. Sometimes you want to read something that will genuinely take your breath away, and make you look amazingly intelligent in front of fellow commuters. Fidelity and Brook Evans are rather underread Persephones that left me speechless, shattered and in complete and utter awe. Filled with the sort of heart rending pain and spectacular characters that aren’t written about any more, they are true gems, and perfect for when you’re in a reading rut.
Need some more drama in your life:
Feeling humdrum? You need The Shuttle; pure and simple Victorian melodrama filled with pantomime villains, damsels in distress, spunky heroines and fainting fits aplenty. You can’t fail to enjoy this ripping page turner that paints a fascinating picture of the turn of the century vogue for impoverished English aristocrats to marry American heiresses, and the questionable coincidences and dastardly rakes will have your blood pressure rising and creative juices flowing in no time!
Want to get lost in another world:
Sometimes we all need an escape, and we can’t always afford a holiday. A book can bridge the gap nicely, and The Children who Lived in a Barn really does transport you back in time and into the lives of the Dunnett children, who are forced to live without their missing parents for a summer. Their quaint speech, detailed descriptions of village and domestic life in the 1950’s, and wonderful efficiency that only children brought up in simpler, more austere times could have, will sweep you far and away into another world, and leave you desperate to build a haybox. If you want to know what I’m talking about, you’d better read it!