I want to tell you a secret.
Come a little closer. Closer still.
Are you listening carefully?
OK, then I’ll begin and tell you about a charming little secret that’s tucked away on the web, and in Bloomsbury and Notting Hill Gate. Not everyone knows of its existence, but those of us that do subscribe avidly to its output. And the name of this deliciously enjoyable hidden gem?
Persephone Books was created ten years ago by Nicola Beauman. It’s aim was to reprint neglected novels, short stories, biography, poetry and cookery books, mostly by women and mostly dating from the early to mid-twentieth century. From small beginnings, Persephone now has 15,000 people on its mailing list, of which I’m one. All Persephone books are beautifully presented. They have elegant grey covers with glorious patterned endpapers and matching bookmarks. The Persephone classic series – nine books in all – have wonderfully evocative colour covers. Persephone sell their books by mail order and they can be ordered from their web-site, by telephone or snail mail. Alternatively, you can visit one of their shops. A real treat. Oh, and their books make perfect gifts too.
So why not try Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson, the light-hearted, charming and funny tale of Miss Buncle, a long term resident of a cosy English village who decides to supplement her income by writing a novel about her village under the pseudonym John Smith ; or enjoy Few Eggs and No Oranges, a daily diary kept by the indomitable Vere Hodgson during the war.
You might have indirectly heard of Persephone Books books recently and not realised it. The Hollywood film, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, starring Amy Adams, was adapted from the wonderful book of the same name by Winifred Watson. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is published by Persephone Books and is one of their most popular titles.
Persephone Books are celebrating their tenth birthday this year. They’ll be holding birthday celebrations on Thursday 18th June at their shop in Lamb’s Conduit Street, where there will be lunch, tea, canapés and wine all day, and a special birthday offer on books!
I’m looking forward to one of their autumn titles – A New System of Domestic Cookery by a Lady (actually Mrs Maria Rundell!) originally published in 1806. Persephone will be republishing the 1816 edition, and Maria Rundell’s book was the household bible for all Jane Austen’s contemporaries and beyond, until the arrival of Mrs. Beeton.
I can’t wait to read this slice of Regency life, but *whispers* Persephone Books is our little secret so don’t tell anyone else 🙂