[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?


Favourite New-To-Me Authors!

There are so many authors who I want to read more of in 2018, but there are a few authors who are new to me that I’d love to read more of this year. These are authors who everyone else has loved but who I’m just discovering. As you can see, some of them are classic authors who have been around forever and I can’t believe that I haven’t read them yet!

Agatha Christie

I’ve only read two of Agatha Christie’s books last year – I started Murder on the Orient Express just before the movie came out because I had planned on seeing the movie ASAP and wanted to finally dig into her books beforehand. I loved the book and I STILL haven’t seen the movie! I then read Hercule Poirot’s Christmas over December and loved that one, too. I think she writes such great mysteries and they’re just fun to dig into and more of a whodunnit rather than a nichey (?) cozy mystery you’d find these days. I mean, I love a cozy mystery about knitting or something, but it’s just fun to dig into something more old-school, which also seems a bit more grown up since the characters aren’t as caricature and silly.

Daphne du Maurier

I have heard of Daphne du Maurier’s books for SO LONG and have been so intrigued by Rebecca that I finally bought myself a copy and dug in. It’s funny because the book doesn’t have a fast moving plot, but her writing is so engaging that I looked forward to reading it whenever I had time to read. I’m excited to read more of her books, mainly My Cousin Rachel and some of her short stories (I had no idea that she wrote the story for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds!).

Haruki Murakami

This was a late-year read for me, a book I read in just an evening (really, in about 40 minutes) to introduce me to the author. I had been really interested in reading Murakami’s books and I had also been interested in reading more translated works so when I saw his book The Strange Library at the bookstore I had to snatch it up. The book is very slim but so pretty! It has flaps that fold over the front and illustrations throughout and I’m so glad I bought a copy for my library. It was a very strange read, but reminded me of Neil Gaiman but with another unique quality to it that I loved. It was strange and simple and beautiful. I plan to read Never Let Me Go this month, and hopefully more of his books this year! (Oops – thanks to the people who reminded me that Never Let Me Go was written by Kazuo Ishiguro! I don’t know how I mixed that up since I’ve actually read one of his books and this one has been sitting on my desk for a long time now!) 

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is one of those authors I’ve known about for years and years. A Christmas Carol is one of those books that has had so many adaptations that have been shown in film that it’s hard not to catch who the story was written by. I owned a collection of stories of his for about 4 years before I finally dug into it, reading A Christmas Carol, and I loved it! Like I said, the collection has other stories and I can’t wait to read them this Christmas.

Andrew Kaufman

I was perusing the library one day, looking for Canadian-authored books, and came across this super slim book called The Tiny Wife. I had set myself a challenge of reading 30 books in December and this looked like the perfect kind of read for the month since it was so short. Little did I know was that this story was going to be strange and fascinating. I loved Kaufman’s writing and how I was immediately enthralled in the strange little story. I was excited to learn that he had numerous other books with an almost fairytale-like quality to them. I look forward to delving into his strange works again!

Fredrik Backman

In case you haven’t read my review of Fredrik Backman’s latest book, Beartown, I had originally picked it up because I thought it would be a great read for December since it had to do with hockey. I thought it was going to be one of those stories about a down on their luck hockey team becoming the best of the best but was surprised to find that the story was a lot darker and character-driven than I thought it would be. Initially, I wasn’t sure about his writing or the story, but then something happened in the story and I was hooked. I had already heard of his book A Man Called Ove, and am excited to see he has another couple books out on top of that! I’ve read a few Swedish authors now and have really enjoyed them – maybe in 2018 I’ll find another favourite Swedish author!

Stuart McLean

Stuart McLean is another one of those Canadian household names that I had known of for a while. I actually had one of his books on my shelf for a long time, having picked it up at a book sale, but then I got rid of it, thinking I wouldn’t like it. Christmas rolled around and I saw the beautiful edition of his latest book, Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe, and I just had to get a copy of it. I loved how pretty it was and that it came with a ribbon for a bookmark, but on top of that, the stories inside were charming and absolutely hilarious! I don’t think I’ve laughed so much reading a book in a long time! I was lucky that Santa brought me a copy of Revenge of the Vinyl Cafe for my stocking and I can’t wait to dig in this year.

Carys Bray

I seem to have fallen in love with strange little stories that don’t have anything to do with the supernatural or paranormal or mythology or anything, but rather stories that have to do with real life and the darker side of human nature. Stories that are almost whimsical and strange, like a fairytale, but not like a fairytale at all. I think of Neil Gaiman when I say this, but these authors – like Haruki Murakami and Andrew Kaufman – aren’t like Neil Gaiman at all. Carys Bray is one of those authors, as well. I gobbled up her short story collection, Sweet Home, in no time, loving the short, strange stories contained within. I didn’t read any of the synopsis beforehand and my jaw dropped a few times while reading. I fell completely in love with her writing and I’m happy that she at least has a novel out to keep me entertained.

Are there any new-to-you authors you found last year that you’d love to read more of?

[Canadian 🇨🇦 Book Talk] Night Moves by Richard Van Camp

Book Details:

Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Read: December 2017


As a window into the magic and medicine of the Northwest Territories, Richard Van Camp’s fourth short story collection is hilarious and heartbreaking. A teenaged boy confesses to a vicious assault on a cross-dressing classmate; Lance tells the sensual story of becoming much closer to his wife’s dear friend Juanita; while a reluctant giant catches up with gangsters Torchy and Sfen in a story with shades of supernatural and earthly menace.

My Thoughts

I’ve heard so many great things about Richard Van Camp that I just had to try out one of his books. So when I was wandering around the library, I picked up his short story collection, Night Moves, and thought it would be a great introduction to his work.

I will say that this collection of stories really isn’t what I had expected, but then again I didn’t even know what to expect. I loved the majority of the stories in this collection, especially hearing more about the Northwest Territories (or, more specifically, his fictional Fort Simmer, based on Fort Smith). The stories here aren’t really feel good stories, but they’re made to make the reader uncomfortable and to really show them the myths and what feels like fantastical ideas of the indigenous people.

I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately and I’m really enjoying them. I like how tight a short story can be and every single one in this collection had me wondering if I’d like it as I read the first sentence, and then Van Camp’s writing would just suck me in a few sentences later. I enjoyed his writing so much that I immediately downloaded his book The Lesser Blessed from the library. I’m so happy to have found such a great author from the Northwest Territories!