Tag Archives: Lettice Cooper

Does The Imprint Matter?

A few things have been making me ponder the imprints of books over the last few weeks. First up was when I was discussing a book and someone asked me what the imprint was and then if that imprint was very good which was something I wasn’t aware I give much thought to but then realised that I do. A bit like prizes actually thinking about it, you know the ones you really trust the selection of, or not as the case may be.

While in London I bumped into Meike Ziervogel who wrote Magda and also runs Peirene Press, who translate novella’s, which instantly reminded me I hadn’t read as many of their brilliant (they have all been very good so far) books as I have meant to. I also have a friend who has been looking for a new publisher and who asked me if I would recommend any, I instantly reeled off three or four who I would recommend because a) the staff there are lovely b) overall the books I read from their publishing house are just up my street – a publisher to trust on all counts. I also spotted a receptionist in a museum reading a Penguin Modern Classic this weekend, which I instantly recognised from the brand which whenever I see a copy of second hand I snatch up even if I know nothing about it because I trust them on previous experience.

This isn't a biased subliminal picture, it just looks pretty.

This isn’t a biased subliminal picture, it just looks pretty.

Mulling it (I like a good mull) all over made me wonder if I am partial to certain publishing houses in particular and where my bias lies. To get a negative out of the way, a certain book won a prize the other day and I looked at the publisher and rolled my eyes as I don’t really like them, not because of their books but because their publicity departments are a nightmare to work with. It shouldn’t matter but then again it does, a lot like one publishing house who has a publicists whose tweets were so up their own bottoms I blocked them and have avoided their books since. Bad, I know. Judgemental? Very. Yet once you have an impression of an imprint it sticks, good or bad. And it isn’t just the publishers you know in reality, it is also just the publishing houses you read regularly simply as a reader. For example Gran used to say she could generally trust Virago’s if she was stuck for a book to read.

Obviously I am working my way through the Persephone Classics (if a little slower than intended) and the reason for this is because through all the ones I have read, which I think is about ten or twelve now in total, maybe more, there is only one which I haven’t like and I have forgiven it everything because it is a Persephone – which is clearly a rather partial leaning isn’t it? I am hoping that when I re-read it (it was The New House by Lettice Cooper) I ‘get’ it the second time around and am 100% proven that all Persephone’s are brimming with wonder. Anyway, I digress…

Another pair of publishers that haven’t gone wrong for me are another two small independents (I need to mull over the bigger imprints more). They are Peirene Press (who I have already mentioned) and And Other Stories. Both feature novels that tend to be short-ish and cover fiction from all over the world and even though every book has something different about it you understand why it fits in the imprints umbrella, a certain je ne sais quoi if you will? I have actually rearranged my shelves recently so that these imprints’ titles all sit together and I can make a beeline for them as I must read more of them. In fact I really must pick one of them up next!

What about all of you? Do you have a certain publisher that you turn to when you need a good read and are pretty much certain any of their books will do the trick? (Feel free to tell me which one publisher it is!) Are there any you’ve had a pretty bad failure rate with? Do you have a classic or independent print you make sure you have the whole collection of and really support? Or does it simply not matter?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

The New House – Lettice Cooper

I don’t know about you all out there but I am aware that I put a certain pressure on specific authors and sometimes publishers to deliver a selection of books any of which I can pick up know I am in safe hands and am bound to enjoy. Only what happens when you don’t really enjoy one of the books. Disappointment is the answer to be honest only the fault really is more with me than the book isn’t it? After all I have put it on a pedestal before I have even turned a page and I do wonder if that’s why you are about to get the thoughts that you are on ‘The New House’ by Lettice Cooper.

I will start of by saying that I had instantly loved the premise of ‘The New House’ hence why I picked it up. A single, and really rather stressful, day in the life of a family moving house in the years between wars, the reader popping into all of their minds as the day goes on. It doesn’t sound complex and that’s because it isn’t some books are all about the subtlety and I thought this would be one such book, in many ways it is. We meet each of the Powell’s either residing in Stone Hall or those who have come by for the day to provide help and support painting the full family picture both as it stands currently and giving insight into the past.

Natalie Powell the mother and matriarch of the family is finding the move and widowhood trying ( a description of her waking up and the realization her husband is gone is written beautifully) and downsizing more so especially as the land is being built over, though you wonder if they could really afford to stay there anyway. Rhoda is the long striving daughter who has refused marriage in order to stay with her mother and is becoming increasingly bothered by the situation (which is fair her mother is a nightmare) and concerned she may turn into her Aunt Ellen, a spinster who gave her life to her relatives rather than herself. Delia is the engaged sister who got away and Maurice the brother who married the rather cold Evelyn (I laughed at Maurice’s thoughts on Evelyn’s attitudes to sex). All the little intricacies of the family are brought to the fore as is their lifestyle and the ‘day to day-ness’ of everything.

This should have been just my cup of tea and a delight to read and yet sadly it didn’t really capture me. Don’t get me wrong I read it from cover to cover otherwise I wouldn’t think it fair of me to ‘review’ it but on occasion it felt like an effort, I felt with every chapter that I had read this all before in the last one and intricate became repetitive for me and I started to get a little frustrated with the situation and the characters. Why did I keep on reading? Well, it’s a Persephone and until now not a single one has failed me and because now and again there were moments of delight and some of brilliant humour they just, for me personally, came too few and far between which was a shame and then as a whole it fell a little flat and left me a little cold when I wanted to be charmed. 6/10

Funny in a week I have mentioned two books that left me ambivalent, a feeling that doesn’t sit well with me. I will however, and you might think this is very odd, be recommending this to a few people as I think they would totally be charmed by it and think it a marvellous book. I am wondering if it was a timing thing and in getting very excited (naturally) about Persephone Reading Week (I would possibly have given up on the book had it not been for Claire and Verity’s delightful venture) I picked it up when I wasn’t in the right mood and therefore did it a slight disservice. Maybe I will get it out the library in a year or so and give it another whirl?

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Filed under Lettice Cooper, Persephone Books, Review