Persephone 100 and the Persephone Project…

I have been meaning to write about Persephone, one of the UK’s most delightful independent publishers, reaching their 100th title for some time. However the right reason never quite presented itself. Well, that is partly true. I could simply have simply said ‘Happy 100 Books Persephone’ and then put a link to all the titles of theirs that I have read so far, only one of them I didn’t ‘get’ I think, but I wanted to do something a little bit extra and a little bit different and then fate stepped in delightfully.

To me, Persephone books are a real ‘treat’ of a book. Despite this blog I am actually not really a big buyer of new books, I have the odd binge once a year in a certain chain, a brief yearly dabble with a certain online retailer (basically when they offer me prime for free, you know who I mean) and whenever I fall into, because it is never planned *cough*, an independent bookshop I like to buy a book or two. I am much more of a borrower from the library or perusing bargain hunter in second hand and charity bookshops, I think this stems from the fact it was the way it was when I was a youth. Anyway despite having borrowed many a delightful grey copy along the way, Persephone’s I saw/see as treats and so had been slowly building up a collection of titles, some I had won from the very people who had introduced me to Persephone Books, Claire and Verity (thank you ladies, why did your bookish blogs stop?) and there Persephone Reading Weeks etc, and others I had seen in independent bookstores along the way.

Well you may have remember that in the last move I lost a special bag of books and in it, amongst some other special copies of other special books were SIX, yes six, Persephone books. ‘Someone at a Distance’ by Dorothy Whipple, ‘Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes’, ‘The Far Cry’ by Emma Smith, ‘Dimanche and Other Stories’ by Irene Nemirovsky, ‘Still Missing’ by Beth Gutcheon, ‘Miss Buncle Married’ by DE Stevenson all just somehow disappeared. I was left with ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson because it was in my boxes of ‘already read’ books and ‘Miss Buncle’s Book’ by DE Stevenson as that was in my ‘to read very soon’ moving box. I still haven’t read it; I think it might be the trauma, maybe. Anyway the collection I was slowly building was down to two, until I spotted this in a charity shop last week…

I actually had spotted a separate Persephone Classic, ‘The World That Was Ours’ by Hilda Bernstein which I will be writing about tomorrow, on a different shelf but I didn’t think I would spot a further five of the gorgeous grey spines!! Naturally I did a double take and scooped them all up in my arms and practically ran to the till. This joy was made all the sweeter discovering that three of them still had the bookmarks when I got home and perused my finds further. It was reading all about them and seeing how different they were, and indeed starting the Bernstein when an idea popped into my head and everything clicked… I would read ALL the 100 Persephone titles and start ‘The Persephone Project’!

Initially ‘The Persephone Project’ sounds bonkers I will admit. Especially from someone who only the other day was saying I am not sure I should start any more projects (apart from Classically Challenged and 40 Before 40, the latter which I am still mulling) or challenges as I want a year of reading by whim. Yet the more I thought about it the more sense it made.

The main point is that I will not be reading these books in one big gulp. Now this will possibly sound even madder, especially seeing as I have worked this out as taking me to March 2021 (when I will be almost 39!), but I am going to read one a month in order though should I fancy reading one of the later titles earlier that’s fine as its likely to be years until I re-read it. That makes sense in my head anyway. Having spent ages going through the catalogue and making a page with all the titles and when I will read them the diversity of the list means I won’t get annoyed either. I will talk more about this tomorrow but ‘The World That Was Ours’ really opened my eyes to how different the books are it being the polar opposite of ‘The Shuttle’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett (my favourite Persephone so far) in every way apart from the fact I love it just as much.

I am also really looking forward to building a collection as one book a month fits my budget (though I have just bought the first three, but please don’t tell The Beard – actually he might not mind as he likes the books as they match the carpet) and over the next few weeks, months and years who knows what gems I might find in any bookshop I might fall into. I may have to get a special set of shelves for Persephone books alone.

So that is the plan! The first book, ‘William – an Englishman’ by Cicely Hamilton is on the way and I will be discussing it on Sunday the 16th of December here (the Project Persephone posts will go live every third Sunday). I am hoping some of you might join in along the way (I am sure somewhere on the internet people are already doing something similar but I want to start at the start) or if you feel a bit crazy and whimsical start with me and go for the whole lot. I feel like it is going to be a real bookish adventure, and indeed by the time I get to book 100 there will have been more added to the list.

Anyway, that is quite enough from me for now. I would love to hear what your favourite Persephone books have been so far and if you have found any forgotten but now favourite-to-you authors in the mean time. Do tell, and let me know if you might join in be it for the long haul (crazy but might be great) or just dip in and out along the way…


Filed under Random Savidgeness, The Persephone Project

18 responses to “Persephone 100 and the Persephone Project…

  1. My Persephone ‘collection’ also stands at 2 books! I hope I’m lucky enough to find a few like you have. I’ve got Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, which I enjoyed, and Wise Virgins which I haven’t read yet.

  2. I rather adore Persephone – my Persephone collection stands at 53 – 54 if you count Nicola Beauman’s biography of Elizabeth Taylor that Persephone also publishes. 6of those 54 are currently still TBR. Now I haven’t read William, and I don’t have it either. I don’t think I can justify buying another Persephone book, a month or so before Christmas – so I won’t be able to join in with your read- a-long this time. But I do look forward to hearing what you think of it. The Persephone project sounds delightful though – enjoy!

    • Laura Caldwell

      I can’t afford it either but found a digital copy online for free. I would love to buy the Persephone one, but that’s not happening right now. (My first priority would be to buy all the Whipple ones-I did buy Greenbanks when it first came out.) I tried my library, but they don’t have it. Digital it is! (Hope I find time to try reading it now.)

      • Wow thanks for that – I have just found it – though it took a while – and downloaded it to my kindle. I may buy the Persephone edition at a later date. Looks like I will be joining in too – though I have a huge stack of books I mean to read it Decemeber – I’ll do my best.

  3. mrsvjdw

    Thanks for the mention. Just no time really to do a bookish blog and don’t read so much these days. The Persephone books are delightful and a pleasure to read them through. Don’t forget that some of them are non fiction/recipe books. I think on their site, they have been working through the books in order, one a month, in a forum, so you might enjoy reading those posts if it’s still up.

  4. JanetD

    The Shuttle is also my favourite so far. I scour local bookshops seeking for those beautiful grey covers but so far have been disappointed: but you never know.

  5. Having just received my Persephone 100 Diary for 2013, I too am embarking on reading all 100 Persephone books. I did think to take them in order, but that may not be possible. I also thought of gathering all the books I do have and putting them in one bookcase.

    I do not buy too many new books needing to be frugal, but old shelving at my library has proved to be a wonderful resource, just love it. Reading all those books but from the original copies.

    My favourite is Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. Second would be The Fortnight in September by R. C. Sheriff.

    Lil Bit Brit

  6. kaggsysbookishramblings

    What a wonderful project! I have about 10 Persephones on my tbr, and my favourite so far is definitely “Miss Pettigrew”. I think you’re very brave taking on this commitment and I shall look forward to reading your posts! I shall even try and join in if I have the particular book you are reading!

  7. Obviously I think this project is an amazing idea! I might well join in with the books I haven’t read, when you get to those. Enjoy!
    (And I love the idea of The Beard being ok with the books because they match the carpet!)

  8. What a fantastic project. As it happens I have just read my very first Persephone, Saplings (which I notice was one of your charity shop finds) and completely loved it. Now I want to buy them all but suspect that would be madness. Well, maybe just a couple now and then!

  9. Pingback: The World That Was Ours – Hilda Bernstein | Savidge Reads

  10. I’m going to join in in a very restrained way by only re-reading ones I already have. I was pointed here by HeavenAli, and she and I do a Month of Re-Reading every July and January, which has encouraged me to do more re-reading as a standard thing every month. And I do like a reading project – see the Months of Re-Reading, plus I did an Iris Murdoch a month all through her novels, and am doing Ali’s Hardy Read (one every 2 months) and an Elizabeth Taylor a month … where will it all end?

    I have added this blog to my Google Reader and will watch with interest. OK, might have to download William, too – rude not to, really …

  11. I think this is a wonderful idea and I’ll follow your reviews closely. Persephones are a ‘treat’ for me (international shipping being a bit expensive). I only buy one or two a year. Like Laura, my library has very few Persephones (1 copy of 1 book across 4 libraries in the group).
    Sad that the Persephone Secret Santa is not running this year!

  12. Paperback Reader

    My blog has been on extended sabbatical… Life has been in the way for a while.

    I love that I’m partly responsible for you discovering Persephone books, bereft that you lost several of your collection, and excited for your project!

    I own around sixty, have read around 25-30 (haven’t counted them up recently but must) and would like to join you along the way wherever I can. I do intend to read them all at some point. So far my favourites have been The Shuttle, Still Missing and anything by Marghanita Laski.

    Our new bedroom in our new flat is painted Persephone grey and the boy suggested shelving my Persephone collection on one of the walls as they will make a beautiful addition to a calm and cosy master bedroom.

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  14. I’ve been in love with Persephone from the very beginning and have over 80 of their titles. William – An Englishman is a very interesting novel and got me completely started on digging out WW1 fiction written by women, suffrage literature and the non-fiction writings of Hamilton, so it’s a great list for leading one onto other interesting bookish trails. My favourite Persephone is An Interrupted Life: The Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum which I found heartbreaking – she writes like an older Anne Frank and sadly didn’t survive the war either.

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