Last November I set myself a little mini reading mission to read all one hundred, now one hundred and four, Persephone titles in order at the rate of one a month. I thought now was a good time to catch up with how I am doing or not as the case maybe as I seem to have gotten rather behind with it all…
Today, being the second Sunday of the month which I mentally designated for the Persephone Project, I should have been discussing Consequences by E.M. Delafield, the 13th Persephone title. However with things as they were with Gran I got a few books behind and so instead would have been discussing the 9th Persephone title Few Oranges and No Eggs: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940 – 1945. Well alas I have gotten somewhat behind again. This is not because of lack of time (though things have been a bit manic with quite a few job interviews) but because every book needs to be read in its own individual way and for me Few Eggs and No Oranges is not a book that can be read in big gulps or devoured in a week or two. It is one you need to digest slowly and take it all in. To rush it would be to spoil it and that is not what I want the Persephone Project to be, it should celebrate the books not make me impatient with them or rush them. So I am holding off, a mini Persephone postponement, but not for long.
You see I have decided that I do want to get back on track and be reading the fifteenth title in February. You may, quite understandably, be thinking ‘hang on, he is way behind but in a mere few months wants to be ahead’ that doesn’t make sense BUT I think it is manageable because of what the next few titles are. As I mentioned Few Eggs and No Oranges are diary entries so I want to dip in and out of them daily along with other reads. Good Things in England is a source book of traditional English cooking by Florence White from the 1920’s so The Beard and I are going to cook some delights (possibly Eel Pie, Hasty Haggis, Egg Curry Cheesecakes – oh the fun) over the festive season. Nicholas Mosley’s Julian Greenfield looks a biography perfect for curling up with over the Christmas period and It’s Hard to be Hip Over Thirty by Judith Viorst being a short collection of poetry. All of this seems realistically juggle-able.
Speaking of realistic, I have decided that as of this month the Persephone Project will no longer have an official date every month. Deadlines can work with some bookish projects but apart from book group and Hear Read This I really want to free my reading up in 2014 as now I have a new job starting in eight days (see the interviews paid off) there is going to be less time for reading and indeed less time for blogging – so I don’t want either to become a chore. I will simply have a big binge over Christmas and then go back to reading one a month amongst my other reads when I fancy them.
Before I go, I should say what an utter joy reading the eight titles has been so far. They have been occasionally challenging (Etty Hillesum) and though provoking (Cicely Hamilton) but overall every single one has been a joy in its own way in particular I have loved how each one from the outset starts as a cosy feeling work and yet as you read on the darker undertones start to show (Dorothy Canfield Fisher The Home-Maker and Dorothy Whipple’s Someone At A Distance in particular) and two have easily been some of the best books of my reading year (Mollie Panter-Downes’ short story collection Good Evening, Mrs Craven and Monica Dicken’s simply wonderful Marina) so I am very much looking forward to what lies ahead.
Do let me know if you have been reading along or if you belatedly want to join in with the Persephone Project, I would be delighted if any of you are or would like to. Also, whilst on the subject what has been your favourite Persephone so far and which ones should I really be looking forward to?
E.M Delafield’s ‘The Diary of a Provincial Lady’ is a book that has been recommended to me umpteen times through the blogosphere. When a book comes under so much glowing praise firstly I have a good old think for about two seconds before I run off and grab a copy, then when I get it home I don’t read it instantly, oh no, I look at it on and off for a few weeks with trepidation instead. Will I actually like it? Have these lovely people got my book taste just so? What on earth will they think of me if I don’t like it? It can actually prove somewhat vexing.
Now really the title of this book does kind of tell you what’s coming. This is a fictional ‘Diary of a Provincial Lady’ though having a wander through the internet etc it turns out that actually this was quite an autobiographical volume of E.M. Delafield’s work. We follow our narrator through a year of village life as she copes with village life, marriage, children, cooks, neighbours and the like for just under a year. That is pretty much the premise of the book, throw in some very dry, wry (I am rather loving this word at the moment, deadpan humour and a bunch of rather wonderfully bizarre local characters and there you have a novel that you will sit grinning through.
The book is not one which is heavy on plot. Instead it is much more based on observational humour yet to my mind there was also a slight sadness to it. Whilst you have the cook who is always on the verge of quitting, the children who mystify their mother, nosey neighbours and the wonderful Lady Boxe who our narrator is ever in competition with and who constantly questions their friendship, I suppose you would call them ‘frenemies’ or some such in today’s world. There is also a husband that really never listens to his wife or seems to care which really is quite odd and the more I thought from that aspect and took into account all the friendships too I suddenly felt that actually our hilarious heroine is quite alienated and isolated. That could just be me of course has anyone else spotted this? It just stuck out to me amongst all the inane grinning I was doing!
Grin a lot I did, no actual out loud laughter but a lot of grinning and I think a smirk or two. I am probably preaching to the converted with this book as I am sure that many of you have already had the pleasure of this novel and possibly its subsequent series The Provincial Lady Goes Further, The Provincial Lady in America and The Provincial Lady in Wartime which I might have a search for and read one day. In fact, and I have this on the TBR at the moment, E.M Delafield’s daughter R.M. Dashwood went on to write ‘Provincial Daughter’ and I am looking forward to reading that in the not too distant future.
A very enjoyable read all in all and one that you can either divulge in an afternoon or dip into now and again from the bedside table. I must forewarn people though that there is some discussion on a certain shopping site about the fact some books advertise three of the volumes and yet only contain the one. I can’t speak for the normal paperback as I bought the delightful Cath Kidston (perfect designer to cover this book) covered edition which is just the first volume.
If like me you enjoy crazy characters, wry observational humour and village life then I doubt very much you could resist its charms. I am wondering what other rare gems that fall under that category of book I am yet to read.
Now this blog post has been hidden away because I am ashamed of the amount of books that had been bought since I last told you I had got quite an excessive amount and before I did the great Autumn Clearout. You will probably be aware of this as I have sent you here from another more recent post and will have explained there. So what on earth have I recently bought and brought into Savidge Towers to add to the never ending supply of books? Well…
- Diary of a Provincial Lady – E.M Delafield (I blame Elaine for this purchase completely after she raved about it)
- Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson (which I was awarded from Paperback Reader)
- Shalimar the Clown – Salman Rushdie
- Dear Everybody – Michael Kimball (Lizzy this one is your fault for making me buy)
- The American Way of Death Revisited – Jessica Mitford
- Diary of an Ordinary Woman – Margaret Forster
- English Passengers – Matthew Kneale (I blame my Gran for this one)
- The Far Cry – Emma Smith
- The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas (Jackie this one is all down to you and you are to blame)
- Vanishing Point – Patricia Wentworth
- At Risk – Patricia Cornwell (free from the office)
- Nightingale Wood – Stella Gibbons
- The Widow and Her Hero – Thomas Keneally (Juxtabook this one is all your fault)
- Foreign Affairs – Alison Lurie
- The Colour – Rose Tremain
- The 2.5 Pillars of Wisdom – Alexander McCall Smith
- Moral Disorder – Margaret Atwood
- The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood (a book I lent and never got back)
You can also see I have passed on blame to those who deserve it and thanks to those who sent me books etc. And if that wasnt enough there is also…
- Equator – Miguel Sousa Tavares (from Bloomsbury)
- Pretty Monsters – Kelly Link (from Canongate and Kimbofo has raved about)
- The People’s Train – Thomas Keneally (from the people at Sceptre)
- Sunset Oasis – Bahaa Taher (from Sceptre)
- Serena – Ron Rash (from Canongate)
- The Death of Bunny Munro – Nick Cave (from Canongate also raved about by Kimbofo)
- Falling Slowly – Anita Brookner
- The Beckoning Lady – Margery Allingham
- The Bay of Angels – Anita Brookner
- From Doon With Death – Ruth Rendell (her first as must read in order)
- Late Comers – Anita Brookner
- The Life of Charlotte Bronte – Elizabeth Gaskell
I can’t justify it and I shan’t it just is what it is ha! At least I didnt buy all of them and I do blame some of you out there fully for some of the oens I did buy! Which of these delights have you read or have been meaning to read?