After I posted yesterday about Persephone Books, a longtime Illinois reader of my blog emailed me and asked, "Did I miss something? You are going to share your choices, aren't you? I'll be waiting!"
So here's what I ordered, for Susan and anyone else who's interested. The descriptions are mainly copied from Persephone's online catalog with some editing by me. The numbers represent when they were published in terms of their catalog.
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Book 39: Manja by Anna Gmeyner
TRANSLATED BY KATE PHILLIPS
PREFACE BY EVA IBBOTSON
Written in London by a young Austrian playwright in exile, Manja opens, radically, with five conception scenes one night in 1920. Set in the turbulent Germany of the Weimar Republic, it goes on, equally dramatically, to describe the lives of the children and their families until 1933 when the Nazis came to power. 'What is so unusual,' wrote the playwright Berthold Viertel in 1938, 'is the way the novel contrasts the children's community — in all its idealism, romanticism, decency and enchantment — with the madhouse community of the adults.'
Book 89: The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow by Mrs. Oliphant
PREFACE BY MERRYN WILLIAMS
Mrs Oliphant (1828-97), one of the outstanding writers of the nineteenth century, was in her time as well-known as Dickens, George Eliot and Mrs Gaskell: ‘the exemplary woman of letters’ is how the literary critic Queenie Leavis described her. And the novelist Penelope Fitzgerald's claim was that ‘Mrs Oliphant is at her very best in novellas and short stories.’ She suggested that two of them, The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow (1890) and Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamond (1886), might well be reprinted together, which is what we have now done, and pointed out that the strongest theme running through all the books is that of the helpless man and the strong woman. Both novellas are about women left on their own to run their own households.
Book 94: No Surrender by Constance Maud
PREFACE BY LYDIA FELLGETT
This is Persephone's first suffragette novel, originally published in November 1911 when the struggle for the vote was at its height.
The narrative is faithful to real facts and incidents, with some of the main characters drawing on leading suffrage figures. One is based on Lady Constance Lytton and another, the heroine Jenny Clegg, is a Lancashire mill girl — thus putting paid to the myth that the suffrage movement was mainly middle-class: the main focus of the novel is on the strong support for women’s suffrage by women workers in the textile mills and on the prejudice against votes for women on the part of many of the men in the labour movement.
When Emily Wilding Davison, who was to die in 1913 under the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby, reviewed "No Surrender," she wrote: ‘There is scarcely a notable incident of the militant campaign which is left untouched . . . But for vivid realism, the pictures of prison life, of the Hunger Strike and Forcible Feeding, are difficult to beat. It is a book which breathes the very spirit of the Women’s Movement."
Book 115: Maman, What Are We Called Now? by Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar
TRANSLATED BY FRANCINE YORKE
PREFACE BY CAROLINE MOOREHEAD
The author's husband was arrested and disappeared in July 1944; for the next six weeks his wife kept a diary which is an unparalleled description of the last days of the Occupation in Paris as they actually happened. Photographs by Therese Bonney.
PREFACE BY SAMANTHA ELLIS
Amber Reeves had been one of the young women visiting the working-class families in Lambeth when her mother Maud Pember Reeves was writing "Round About a Pound a Week" PB No.79. It is thus unsurprising that her 1914 novel focuses on the social issues that had been preoccupying her mother.
However, it is also a novel about marriage (hence its title): in a deeply sophisticated way it describes a middle-aged couple who love each other navigating round the rock of their differences, essentially a wife who comes to realize that the waitresses in her husband's chain of tea shops are underpaid and thus starts to question her life and family relationships once she tries to do something about the girls' working conditions.
Book 119: Long Live Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Tirzah Garwood
EDITED AND WITH A PREFACE BY ANNE ULLMANN
When Tirzah Garwood was 18 she went to Eastbourne School of Art and here she was taught by Eric Ravilious. Over the next four years she did many wood engravings (below) and these were widely praised and several were displayed by the Society of Wood Engravers. Alas, after she and Eric were married in 1930 a large part of her time was spent on domestic chores. In 1935 she had the first of her three children. In 1942 — the year she was operated on for breast cancer — she wrote her autobiography (in the evening, after the children were in bed); this has now been published with the title "Long Live Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Tirzah Garwood."
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I must also mention that I assumed Persephone would pack my six books in a box and ship them together. Instead they shipped them individually, each in a protective envelope with the number in the shipment written on the front. Books 3-6 all came on the same day but books 1 and 2 have not appeared. Persephone said they will re-place them but first I plan on checking with my local US Post Office. I've just been waiting for better weather before I do any errands.
The lost books are the first and last in this list: Nos. 39 and 119. Of course, the fact that Persephone had just published Great Bardfield is the reason I made my purchases in the first place as I am a huge fan of Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden and their circle.
Illustrations from Persephone's website: Lyons Shop girls, "The Train Journey" by Tirzah Garwood.
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Persephone also publishes The Persephone Post, a daily photo with text which often relates to their titles; sometimes there is a weekly or seasonal theme. Always worth a look, as is their list of favorite blogs about books and reading. Those blogs are where I first learned about Persephone Books and read reviews of what they were publishing.
The painting at the top of the page is from the Persephone Post from January 9, 2017. They've been featuring paintings by Harold Knight all this week. Here's what it says underneath: "We have featured Harold Knight, husband of Laura, on the Post before but since he is one of our absolute favourites (up there with Harold Harvey and Fred Elwell) he can bear a bit of repetition. This is The Green Book 1916, it’s at the National Museum of Wales, and it’s a moot point whether the book is green — or Persephone grey."