Monday, 25 August 2014

In Praise (yet again) of Persephone Books. . .

As the summer draws to a close, we're very busy doing all sorts of projects to spruce the house up. I have guests coming in a month from Canada (hooray!) and so we're painting the spare room, finally getting around to hanging up pictures that have been leaning against walls for ages, weeding the garden, and generally GETTING THINGS DONE!

It's been over two years, but I'm finally starting to get all my books sorted.  It's taken me some time to convince the Liverpud that books (and bookcases) do furnish a room, and then to persuade him to take me to IKEA where the crowds and parking always fill him with dread. 

At any rate, on our last trip, I picked up two smaller Billy bookcases and got the accompanying glass doors, purely to house my beloved Persephones.  Possibly the most beautiful books in the world, they deserve no less.  I've been collecting them for over ten years now and have yet to read one that I haven't enjoyed. 

The birth of Persephone Books coincided more or less with the time that I started working in publishing. Back then, imprints often produced really lovely tote bags for marketing purposes but these started to decline in size and quality.  So I was absolutely delighted when Persephone announced they had one for sale.  Isn't it lovely?  It's big and roomy with a solid bottom and strong handles.

But the best part (and really, would we expect less of Persephone?) is the lining, based on the endpapers for one of their books - The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens.  Gorgeous!  It's the perfect book and knitting bag and I've got the perfect project to go into it.

Along with the bag, I ordered their latest book - Wilfred and Eileen by Jonathan Smith which I've just finished reading as part of my ongoing (albeit slow) challenge to tackle numerous books on and about the First World War during the next four years.

Aren't the endpapers stunning?  It's from a 1913 fabric called Maud, designed by Vanessa Bell.

It's a very interesting novel to compare and read alongside Persephone's first ever book - William: An Englishman by Cicely Hamilton.  Each features a couple falling in love and marrying during the First World War and focuses on their idealisms and naivete, and the inevitable loss of innocence and future plans that the conflict brings.  The characters and outcomes are very different though - written as they are, almost sixty years apart - but Smith's novel was based on an actual couple and their experiences and through their letters, he has been able to capture details and ambience from the period. It's another worthy offering from Persephone and a very moving story.  

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