A Persephone for Every Occassion

Hurrah! It’s Persephone Reading Week! Thanks Claire and Verity! I’ve already read my Persephone for the weekend and my review will be appearing at some point over the next couple of days!

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!

72 comments

  1. What a fab list! I just got lost in a Dorothy Whipple myself. She is incredible. Now…if only I can track down Young Anne!

    1. Thank you Heather! I’m so glad you are also a Whipple fan! I have Young Anne – it’s very much a first novel and not as good as the others. When I get back home, if you still haven’t found a copy, let me know and I will send you mine to read!

  2. Such a perfectly expressed list, ideal for the freshly converted Persephone fan! I particularly agree about Greenery Street and The Shuttle, two of my favourite Persephones. I really do need to read Whipple soon though; I’m clearly missing out!

  3. I knew this was going to be a dangerous weekend — I know I want to read all the Persephones, and my to-buy list keeps getting longer and longer. And I’m on a book-buying ban until April! The Fortnight in September and The Children Who Lived in a Barn are at the top of the list. I hate waiting!!!

    1. It’s torture isn’t it?! I am far from my collection and I wish I had all of my unread ones with me!! You will love those two – they will be worth waiting for, promise!

  4. Fantastic post, Rachel! As always, your pithy wit and evocative descriptions have me giggling and admiring. Safe to say that you are definitely in contention for the favourite post of the weekend prize!

    The description alone of Miss Pertigrew had me cheered and smiling. The one for Greenery Street had me doing my best imitation of a nodding dog.

    Have a very happy Persephone Reading Weekend.

    1. Thank you Claire! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and you’re very sweet!🙂

      I am so pleased we all get to do this again – your dedication and hard work to pull everything together is MUCH appreciated!

    1. I know you’d love A Fortnight in September, Rachel, and also – they live in Dulwich which is your neck of the woods these days!

      I loved your Miss Buncle post – such a cheery book!

  5. What a wonderful post! I haven’t read any Persephone titles (not for lack of interest, simply a logistical/financial problem) but I’ve often wondered where I ought to start once I get access to some titles. This gives me a perfect guide.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you’ve found it useful. Let’s hope you get to read your first Persephone soon – there’s a giveaway just for you I believe so look out for it – Claire and Verity want to give first time Persephone readers a chance to have their first book!

  6. What a clever and charming post! This is a great idea and so many categories apply to me (though not all at once)… I particularly loved the heading “Are feeling rubbish at everything”🙂
    Your recommendations are sound. I shall be making use of this. Thanks, Fleur!

    1. Thank you Cristina! You are very lovely.🙂

      Feeling rubbish at everything days happen to me far too often – I am not a particularly glamorous person and I tend to just muddle my way through with toothpaste down my front and bleary eyes, but I wouldn’t be me if I was more poised and together than I am!!!

      Good!

      1. Rachel! My apologies! My face is red for having accidentally called you Fleur. This is what happens when you have several tabs open in one window and so many lovely blog posts to read🙂

  7. Such an original way to introduce us to Persephone titles! I loved reading your entry today.Of course, I especially liked the para for British readers. Dorothy Whipple really fits the bill and writes about my favourite part of the last century.
    I am off now to look at affordable Whipples on Amazon. You never know, there may be something there for me and, with your reviews in past blog entires, I know I’ll enjoy whatever I find. If not, I’ll reread ‘Someone at a Distance’.
    I’m sure you’ll have a Happy Persephone Weekend just imagining all of us with our beautiful volumes

    1. Thanks Chrissy! Us Brits abroad definitely need some Whipple every now and again!

      I hope you find something affordable Chrissy – you can’t go wrong with a Whipple!

      I will – all of us around the world, sitting with our dove grey books, smiling away!🙂

  8. I’m very tempted to buy Greenery Street when we next visit the Persephone shop after reading your comments about it. I love Miss Buncle’s Book, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Home-Maker, and Children Who Lived in a Barn.

    1. You should, Geraldine – we clearly love all the same Persephones (The Home Maker is one of my absolute favourites too) and as such you can’t fail to be delighted by Greenery Street!

  9. Oh, Rachel, bless your heart: you love The Shuttle! ME TOO. How wicked is Nigel? How cool is Bettina?

    Seriously, you named ALL my favorite Persephones (and another few I must try).

  10. A Fortnight in September is wonderful, so evocative of tha era. However, I’m hoping to read Miss Buncle’s Book very soon – it’s on order from Persephone as we speak, so for the weekend, I shall have to have a look at my Persephones and choose something to dip into.

  11. Persephone books have been such a delight. I discovered them when I really needed comfort, and they provided that– as well as inspiration. Whipple is my favorite–but I love every book I have read. This weekend I am reading The Crowded Street–and I can truly identify with Muriel.

    1. Hi Jayne! Persephone provide comfort, inspiration, joy…you name it, they give it! I’m so glad you found them, and Whipple – she is such a discovery! I really enjoyed The Crowded Street – I’m so glad you are identifying with Muriel. She’s such a strong character.

  12. Wow! What a great list. Greenery Street is already on my wishlist, but you just pushed it up higher…and made me wonder if I should reconsider my choice for the weekend.🙂 Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thanks Susan! Greenery Street should definitely be high on ANYONE’S wishlist – such a lovely book! I am now intrigued to know what you are reading this weekend!! You are welcome🙂

  13. You could work in a PR department with a post like that! I was thrilled to pick up a copy of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day a couple of weekends ago on one of my jaunts. The illustrations are wonderful! And once the memory of Downton Abbey has all but faded into the distance, I plan on pulling out The Shuttle to retrieve some of that feeling from the era.

    Off for a walk and then some Whipple!

    1. Ha! Thanks Darlene! I am a very persuasive person!! Good for you on the Miss Pettigrew find – I believe I found my Miss Pettigrew in a charity shop actually – that was a happy day!

      Oh Downton Abbey, how I miss it! The Shuttle will definitely fill the melodrama gap for you!!

      Sounds lovely – what a perfect day!🙂

  14. Oh my, what a fun and helpful list. Thank you so much. I believe that on this snowy Friday I need to make a visit to the local Library.(I usually like snow, but February is almost over and enough is enough.) I will enjoy the search.🙂

  15. The Fortnight in September and The Crowded Street were two of my birthday presents from the offspring! Dorothy Whipple, as you know, is an old favourite of mine; I loved Miss Pettigrew; I have Fidelity among my Persephone TBRs. And (whisper, as I’ve banned myself from buying any more books for a LONG time) I’ve just ordered a secondhand copy of Greenery Street as I couldn’t resist your description. You fiend!🙂

    1. Well what a perfect coincidence! I hope you have read and enjoyed them!! We are obviously of the same Persephone mindset!🙂

      Oh Penny..you deserve a treat! And some cheer – the weather is so gloomy right now you’re practically medicating yourself by buying such a lovely book that will lift your spirits! I am sorry though…I do keep leading people into temptation it seems!!

  16. Oh thank you! Some I’ve read, but some I haven’t. Now must go get Fortnight in September, Greenery Street and the Children Who Lived in a Barn

  17. Thank you! New to the blog, and all related ones, I am too late for this year but with this list I will be armed for next year! A great list!
    And I must say, too, that I enjoy your posts immensely.

  18. Just to agree with everyone who’s observed, thanked or otherwise commented on what a great post this is – a book for every occasion is a lovely device, and you really sold the books to me. I really really enjoyed reading your post – thank you!

  19. Ohh sunshine for the soul.. I’m reading The Fortnight in September right now (still in Ch.2) so am very pleased you give it such high praise. It isn’t raining on our end right now but I am slumped on the sofa, just back from the flu, so I guess that counts.🙂

  20. Thank you so much for all the great recommendations! I visited Persephone Books when I was in London last summer. What a beautiful shop. And of course I bought several titles. I have been rereading Barbara Pym’s “Excellent Women.” I wonder if Persephone has published anything by Pym. It would seem a logical match between the two.

    1. You are welcome! You are lucky to have visited – it really is the most delightful sunny shop. I don’t think they have published any Pym as Virago reprint her – but at least her works are in print – I enjoy them too!

  21. What a wonderful post! And I just happen to have a copy of The Shuttle that I am dying to read but am not quite drama-deficient enough yet.🙂 Glad you mentioned The Fortnight in September because that sits at the top of my Persephone wish list right now. Soon to be the next one bought.

    1. Thanks Frances!! Oh yes – you have to wait until you’re in the mood for some real drama!! I hope you get A Fortnight in September too – it’s truly magnificent and such a beautiful, simple story about the important things in life.

  22. What a great list! You make me want to read every single title on there. (Which is not that difficult, I admit, since I’d like to read most Persephone’s anyway), but this served as a good introduction to some more titles.

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