Tag Archives: Winifred Watson

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…

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Filed under Random Savidgeness, The Persephone Project

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson

I was a little worried that I might not be able to take part in ‘Persephone Reading Weekend’ with everything going on of late and reading by whim. However I do like joining in and I had high hopes that ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson might be just the ticket for my reading mood right now. It has also been long enough ago that I saw the film that I remember very little about it, other than it was fabulous, and so could create the characters and the story a new in my head as was my imaginations want.

The best way I can describe ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ is simply to call it a fairytale, in fact it’s a modern (well in terms of being written in 1938) take on the Cinderella story. Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is down on her luck, middle aged and seemingly in the middle of a rather mediocre and hand to mouth existence. Rather than sending her to a house filled with unruly children it seems her employers believe that Miss Pettigrew would be far better suited to a life looking after the household of nightclub singer Miss Delysia LaFosse. Initially you wouldn’t think that Miss Pettigrew would be able to stomach spending more than two minutes with Miss LaFosse but a jobs a job and slowly but surely Miss Pettigrew starts to live her life more than she ever has before.

There were two things that I utterly adored about this book. The first was the characters. Miss Pettigrew herself could have possibly come across as slightly too moralistic and I would end up feeling sorry for her and possibly slightly annoyed. I also thought that the flighty and rather wayward Miss LaFosse might get on my nerves for the complete opposite reason of her being so completely and utterly over the top. Neither happened I am glad to report. In fact the chalk and cheese nature of these two women and how their relationship developed was one of the complete joys of the book, from polar opposites mutual lessons of self discovery come to these two women in many ways. Their characters were wonderful and possibly the best thing about the book all in all.

The other thing I loved was the timing and pacing of the book. I hadn’t remembered from the film that it does indeed take place over the space of a single day. Yes, the title does suggest that but not all titles are 100% reflective of the book inside are they? I loved the way the book was sectioned out in 26 chapters, some encapsulating 2 hours some 20 minutes etc, from 9.15am one day till 3.47am the next. It kept the pace and plot moving but more importantly left me believing, rather naively and sentimentally, that your life really can change completely in the space of a single day.

I loved this book quite unashamedly and I think that its one of my very favourite of the Persephone novels that I have read (and I have indeed read a few now) though it doesn’t quite beat the sensationalism of ‘The Shuttle’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett yet I think they could both be two of my very favourite books I have read so far. A delightful fairytale in my favourite period (as I do so love the 1930’s), I couldn’t really ask for more could I? 9/10

Oh and I nearly forgot, if that wasn’t enough it came with wonderful illustrations which I really liked and in some ways reminded me of the Joyce Dennys books I love so much.

It’s made me want to see the film all over again, so I shall have to add that to my never ending Lovefilm list. I’m very glad both Claire and Verity and their ‘Persephone Reading Weekend’ sent me in the direction of this, it also seemed rather serendipitous that this book was one I actually won from Claire in a previous Persephone Reading Week if I am not mistaken. So have you read or indeed seen ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’? Did one lead you to the other or did you happen upon them by chance? Which other Persephone novels would you recommend I give a whirl? I do have Winifred Holtby’s ‘The Crowded House’ which is tempting me after the lovely South Riding’… in fact I have just noticed that I have had rather a ‘Winifred Weekend’.

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Filed under Books of 2011, Persephone Books, Review, Winifred Watson

Those Summer Reads…

I mentioned on my bookish bits last week that I was planning on having a ‘Summer Reads Season’ and what time could be better than when I am away myself on a shortish summer break (longer one coming next month). Ahead this week you can expect to hear from publishers, authors and bloggers regarding favourite reads and what delights they have been saving for summer. The newspapers will be going crazy over this in a few weeks (I always read those seasonal lists) and so I thought ‘why don’t I too?’ But for today lets just look at summer reads as a genre shall we?

Two things made me think of what summer reading as a subject, if I did any – which I have now noted I do, for a post which then became a week long jaunt. One was a post Lija of A Writer’s Pet made which really got my mind whirring. The other was that I was already having to look at what books I had read that were my idea of a perfect summer read for something which launches tomorrow (I am shrouding it in mystery to build up the anticipation, ha) and I came up with this delectable eight of which I have had  to whittle down from.

I was going to list them but then the post might be never ending, if you want a list though let me know! Anyway, I never thought that I was someone who subscribed to the idea of summer reading; in fact I thought I read the same things all year round. When I looked into it though from what I read last year I noticed I do actually read a little seasonally. These books initially look like they have nothing in common but the more I thought about it the more as a group they sum up my summer mentality…

  • They are all well written and yet not hard or oppressive (crime doesn’t have to be dark just have some shades) nor are they froth
  • They each have big themes but never make them depressing
  • They have a slightly magical touch to them even if they aren’t surreal (it makes sense in my head to me if it doesn’t to anyone else)
  • They are books you could languish in no matter the genre
  • They are books you want to rave about to people
  • There is generally sunshine in them to my memory, be it the place, the season it’s written about or just a sort of jovial summery prose (even the war time ones)
  • They are literary yet punchy/paced too
  • None of them is trashy

Not all of them tick all those criteria but each one hits at least four or more… So I guess that must be my criteria for a good summer read from me. Weirdly I could probably sum up an autumnal gem for me far easier than I could a summer. I have also noticed that none of them are particularly long, even though one that looks like it might be.

Interestingly when I looked at what was on my current bedside it seems the ridiculously humid London heat of the last few weeks has started to have a summery effect on my reading subconscious already as I have these lined up and ready to go by the bedside.

I think they all fit with my summer bullet points don’t you? So do you read seasonally? What criteria can you list for me that you need from your summer reads? Don’t give any recommendations yet, save yourself for next week when it all goes recommendation mad! Hope you’re looking forward to it?

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The Secret Stash

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…

Recently Aquired Part I

  • 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…

Recently Aquired Part II

  • 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?

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Filed under Book Spree, Book Thoughts