An A to Z: 100 Persephone Books

What to do to celebrate the wonderful achievement of Persephone Books now that it has brought us one hundred different titles?

An A to Z maybe …

It would be difficult – no impossible – to fit in everything worthy of celebration, but I still thought it would be a nice way to pick out some highlights.

A is for Alas Poor Lady by Rachel Ferguson: the book at the very top of my Persephone wishlist.

B is for Biannually. It is always a red-letter day when the latest Persephone Biannually arrives, with articles, short stories, reviews, events, so much to peruse.

C is for The Carlyles at Home by Thea Holme. It really was lovely to be drawn into the domestic lives of Jane and Thomas Carlyle.

D is for Doreen by Barbara Noble. The story of a young evacuee, torn between her mother and the couple who take her in, is written with such wonderful insight and sensitivity.

E is for Endpapers. The dove-grey covers make books look alike, but the endpapers within, chosen to match the period and the style of each one, highlight the differences beautifully. I’ve chosen a few favourites to illustrate this post.

F is for Forthcoming. Novels by Helen Hull and Elisabeth de Waal have been promised for next year, and I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect.

G is for Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple. A quite perfect recreation of family life by Persephone’s most published, and I think most loved, author.

H is for The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. An absolutely astonishing piece of writing, and a story from the early years of the last century that still has much to say about family life.

I is for Isobel English, author of Every Eye. A coming of age story written with such wonderful observation and understanding.

J is for Jocelyn Playfair, author of A House in the Country. A book I really must read, because I can see similarities with my grandmother’s life.

K is for Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll. I gave a copy to one of my aunts a few Christmases ago. She loved it, and she thought that the Persephone Classics edition was beautiful.

L is for Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski. The first Persephone book I read and it is a little gem, with maybe the best final line ever.

M is for Mollie Panter-Downes. Persephone has two volumes of her short stories in print and I hope that her London War Notes will join them soon. Her vivid reports of life in London in Wartime for The New Yorker really should be print.

N is for No Surrender by Constance Maud. A passionate account of the suffragette movement written by one who was there. It hit me emotionally, and it taught me a great deal that I hadn’t known.

O is for Oriel Malet, author of Marjory Fleming: a fictionalised biography of a literary prodigy. It is quite beautifully done, and I’m sorry it seems to be less read and less discussed that many other Persephone books.

P is for The Persephone Post, which offers daily treats to its readers.

Q is for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Ruby Ferguson’s Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary was said to be one of her favourite novels. I read it on holiday a couple of years ago, and I can quite believe that.

R is for Round About a Pound a Week by Maud Pember Reeves. A remarkable work of social history, focusing on the lives of working class families in Edwardian London.

S is for Susan Glaspell: reporter, playwright, and an exceptional novelist, whose works included Fidelity and Brook Evans.

T is for Tea With Mr Rochester by Frances Towers. Quite simply the loveliest volume of short stories I have ever read.

U is for Ursula Roberts. She wrote Lettice Delmer, a novel in verse published under the name Susan Miles. I never thought that such a book could hold me, but it was utterly compelling.

V is for A Very Great Profession by Nicola Beauman. I book that I hardly dare pick up, because every time I do I find another book that I really must order straight away.

W is for William: An Englishwoman by Cecily Hamilton. The winner of the Prix Femina-Vie Heureuse in 1919 and the very first book to win dove-grey covers.

X is for The Expendable Man by Dorothy Hughes. A classic tale of the wrongly accused man, a crime novel with important things to say, and a twist so remarkable that I can say nothing more.

Y is for The Young Pretenders by Edith Henrietta Fowler. Another one on my wishlist, a novel for children that will speak to adults too, I’m told.

Z is for Zina, the heroine of The Hounds of Spring by Sylvia Thompson. Not a Persephone Book, but one of those books that I had to order after I read about it in A Very Great Profession.

I struggled to find a Z, but when I did I realised it was the right way to end. because there are still lost gems to be rediscovered and we are so lucky to have publishers like Persephone to find them for us.

9 responses

  1. I just ordered the 2013 diary/journal with all the lovely endpapers of all 100 books I am looking forward to receiving it.

    My wonderful old local library has many of these original publications that Persephone is reprinting.

    Lil Bit Brit

  2. What a great post! There are still so many Persephones I haven’t read, though you’ve mentioned two of my favourites, Alas Poor Lady and Little Boy Lost.

  3. Pingback: Classics Club Event: Feminist Literature in March | The Classics Club

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