Challenges, Read-A-Thon

[Challenge] Persephone Read-a-thon!

In the past, this wouldn’t be something I’d be interested in, but since last year I got addicted to the classics and stocked up on tons for my collection, I’m very excited to have a whole 11 days devoted to knocking some of these titles off of my TBR! Jessie from Dwell In Possibility is hosting this read-a-thon and she says there are no strict rules, it’s just a fun read-a-thon to read and discuss all things Persephone!

I adore the Persephone classics. From what I know, they are a London-based publisher who strive to publish books written by women that have gone out of print over the last while. They have a couple collections, one where the titles are completely grey with a white box for the title, french flaps and all; and the other collection has a gorgeous illustrated cover with a grey box for the title. Currently, they have 125 titles in print. I only own 5 titles but I know my library has a few more, so I’ll have to see what they have once I finish mine.

Here are the books I’m planning to choose from this week (follow the links to Goodreads):

Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll

First published in The Times (London) during the 1920s, Kitchen Essays explains the proper way to make Lobster Newburg while offering fascinating insight into the social history of England.

Agnes Jekyll felt that cooking should fit the occasion and temperament and states that “a large crayfish or lobster rearing itself menacingly on its tail seems quite at home on a sideboard of a Brighton hotel-de-luxe, but will intimidate a shy guest at a small dinner-party.” And that “a hardy sportsman should not be fed in the same way as a depressed financier.”

Agnes Jekyll (1860–1937) was the daughter of William Graham, Liberal MP for Glasgow and patron of the Pre-Raphaelites. A celebrated hostess and entertainer, her first dinner party included Robert Browning, John Ruskin, and Edward Burne-Jones. She lived in Surrey, England.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

Miss Pettigrew, an approaching-middle-age governess, was accustomed to a household of unruly English children. When her employment agency sends her to the wrong address, her life takes an unexpected turn. The alluring nightclub singer, Delysia LaFosse, becomes her new employer, and Miss Pettigrew encounters a kind of glamour that she had only met before at the movies. Over the course of a single day, both women are changed forever.

Someone At A Distance by Dorothy Whipple

Written in 1953, the last book by novelist Dorothy Whipple, Someone at a Distance is a story about the destruction of a marriage. Ellen is “that unfashionable creature, a happy housewife” who loves her life in the English countryside. She tends her garden, dotes on her children, and, when she remembers, visits her cantankerous mother-in-law. This domestic bliss, however, is shattered when her husband, in a moment of weak mid-life vanity, runs off with a French girl.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey

It is a brisk English March day, and Dolly is getting ready to marry the wrong man. Waylaid by the sulking admirer who lost his chance, an astonishingly oblivious mother bustling around and making a fuss, and her own sinking dread, the bride-to-be struggles to reach the altar. “Dolly knew, as she looked round at the long wedding-veil stretching away forever, and at the women, too, so busy all around her, that something remarkable and upsetting in her life was steadily going forward.”

Julia Strachey (1901-1979) was born in India, where her father, a brother of Lytton Strachey, was in the Civil Service. After her parents’ divorce she lived with relations in England and went to Bedales and the Slade and then worked as a model, as a photographer and in publishing. She first married the sculptor Stephen Tomlin and then the art critic Lawrence Gowing; her two novels appeared in 1932 and 1951.

Mariana by Monica Dickens

Monica Dickens’s first book, published in 1940, could easily have been called Mariana – an Englishwoman. For that is what it is: the story of a young English girl’s growth towards maturity in the 1930s. We see Mary at school in Kensington and on holiday in Somerset; her attempt at drama school; her year in Paris learning dressmaking and getting engaged to the wrong man; her time as a secretary and companion; and her romance with Sam. We chose this book because we wanted to publish a novel like Dusty Answer, I Capture the Castle or The Pursuit of Love, about a girl encountering life and love, which is also funny, readable and perceptive; it is a ‘hot-water bottle’ novel, one to curl up with on the sofa on a wet Sunday afternoon. But it is more than this. As Harriet Lane remarks in her Preface: ‘It is Mariana’s artlessness, its enthusiasm, its attention to tiny, telling domestic detail that makes it so appealing to modern readers.’ And John Sandoe Books in Sloane Square (an early champion of Persephone Books) commented: ‘The contemporary detail is superb – Monica Dickens’s descriptions of food and clothes are particularly good – and the characters are observed with vitality and humour. Mariana is written with such verve and exuberance that we would defy any but academics and professional cynics not to enjoy it.’

Naturally I’m hoping to get to them all but we’ll see how it goes! And hopefully I can find more of these in the future. I’ve heard Abe Books has a great used selection so maybe when I start buying books again in 2019 I’ll get a couple more. Also, I PVR’d Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day and look forward to watching it after reading the book. It looks like a fun movie!

Have you read any of the Persephone titles? Which ones are your favourites?


13 thoughts on “[Challenge] Persephone Read-a-thon!”

  1. These are all great choices, Kristilyn! Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day was the first Persephone Book I read, and is apparently their best seller. The movie adaptation is delightful and one of my favorite comfort watches-I hope you enjoy it too! I’ve only heard good things about Mariana and Someone at a Distance-both of which are on the top of my Persephone TBR-and I recently read and enjoyed Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. It’s a fun, quick read with quirky characters and witty dialogue. I hope you are able to get to most of these during the readathon!

    1. Thanks, Jessie! I’m really looking forward to it. They’re such gorgeous books and I love that they’re not all the hyped up and popular titles, but ones that have been out of circulation. Kind of makes them more special in my opinion.

  2. I’m ashamed to have not heard of or seen any of the Persephone books. I’m definitely going to have to get on that. Will eagerly await your reviews for these so that I’ll know which ones to try.

    Good luck on your readathon! 🙂

  3. I just noticed this challenge, and would love to join. I just read my first Persephone a few months ago (A Lady and Her Husband) and loved it. Have fun!

  4. I was lucky enough to visit the Persephone Bookstore quite a few years ago. It was so neat to be among all those lovely gray covers. I highly recommend Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Such a charming book. I’ll have to take note of this challenge because I have several Persephones on my shelves and I’ve been ignoring them.

  5. Kitchen Essays is delightful, not a cookery book as such, but about food, at a time when well-to-do people had kitchen maids, cooks, shooting-parties and motor excursions (for which you needed a hay box – to keep the soup warm!). Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is an utterly enchanting fairy tale, with the obligatory happy ending, and Someone At A Distance is a wonderfully restrained account of the break-up of a marriage. The various relationships are delicately portrayed, and the domestic detail is perfect. I have the other two, but haven’t read them yet, By the way, the Persephone Book Shop is small but gorgeous – the building dates back to the 18thC and seems to changed very little, and there are shelves of those dove grey book, low lights (but not so dim you can’t see), vases of flowers, and classical music playing softly in the background. It’s one of my favourite places when I;m in London.

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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