Thursday, August 17, 2006

Queen Of The Underworld

Surely the greatest publishing discovery round my neck of the woods has to have been that of Persephone Books. Based on the charming Lambs Conduit Street in London's Holborn, Persephone is a wonderfully traditional, largely-female publisher of long-forgotten favourites that have been out of print for ages. The website explains, "Our titles include novels, short stories, diaries and cookery books. They are all carefully designed with a clear typeface, a dove-grey jacket, a 'fabric' endpaper and bookmark, and a preface by writers such as Lyndall Gordon, PD James and Eva Ibbotson."

On the whole, of the 20 of so Persephone books I have read so far, my favourites by a long shot are:

* "Lady Rose And Mrs Memmery" - Ruby Ferguson
This was one of the late Queen Mother's favourite books of all time - being about a super-priviledged Scottish girl who grows up to inherit a palatial Scottish empire. But after being forced into a loveless marriage so that she could unite her fortune with an equally wealthy local heir, she realised where her heart truly lay.

* "Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day" - Winifred Watson
Apparently this is Persephone's best-selling book, and it's easy to see why. Another day-in-the-life-of book (but much more readable than "Ulysses"), "Miss Pettigrew" is the fairytale of an ageing spinster who comes to work for a flighty socialite in London by mistake... and her life is magicaly transformed.

* "The Making Of A Marchioness" - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Frances Hodgson Burnett famously wrote "A Little Princess" and "The Secret Garden", and as ever "The Making Of A Marchioness" is a rags to riches tale with a cruel Indian element... but this one has a more adult feel than Burnett's better known books.

* "Miss Ranskill Comes Home" - Barbara Euphan Todd
The author of "Worzel Gummidge" puts a new slant on the World War Two book with a story about a lady, Miss Ranskill, who has been shipwrecked on a desert island for two years, and when she is rescued comes home to find Blighty in the middle of World War Two. Unable to buy clothes without coupons, or to sleep with the windows open, "Miss Ranskill" is a fresh look at some of the absurdities of wartime practice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Lambs Conduit is charming no doubt, but for how long? Have you seen the campaign to keep Lambs Conduit independent? Please visit - there is an online petition to try and prevent Starbucks from killing the local trade.