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I came across the Persephone Books website www.persephonebooks.co.uk by chance when I was researching book publishers websites. Before this I knew nothing about Persephone Books as I had never heard of them before. Out of curiosity I browsed their website and found it to be very interesting.
They reprint books written mainly by 20th Century female writers that have been forgotten or neglected.They currently have a collection of 96 books, each book has been chosen by Persephone because it is thought provoking and well written.These books will be of interest to readers who enjoy, nostalgia,vintage, true life and Social history
Their books include ;
While browsing their website I noticed a section at the bottom of the homepage where you could subscribe to their newsletter, so I signed up. All subscribers are sent a lovely coloured catalogue containing detailed information about their books, a vintage fabric designed bookmark, and a free copy of their Biannually magazine , also containing beautiful artwork and information.I got my copy through the post a few days after I applied.
The website is an interactive site for fans of Persephone, with a blog and a forum where members can ;
Listen to Audio clips from books
Get the address of the Persephone shop in London
Get news of any events being held
The books are designed with a Dove Grey jacket and the endpapers are printed in lovely Vintage fabric designs , you also get a bookmark to match.I have not yet ordered any books from them because at the moment I am still reading through the catalogue so that I can decide which ones to buy.The trouble is they all look good and I just want to own them all!
I was first introduced to Persephone Books by a friend who was reading 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day'. The design of the book and her praise for it, made me take an interest in them, and when I moved to London about 6 months ago, I decided to visit the shop. I now can't get enough!
The website (and their catalogue) indicates that 'Persephone Books reprints neglected classics by C20th (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of 86 books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are ideal presents or a good choice for reading groups.'
As this summary indicates, they reprint books which have been left by the wayside, not necessarily 'high literature' but really great books, inspiring and thought provoking, which are a great read. What they don't mention in the above quote, is the beautiful design of their books and the inclusion of a book mark to match the inside covers of the book (endpapers) - beautiful designs taken from contemporary fabrics/textiles.
There are two London shops, the one I am reviewing - 59 Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1N 3NB and another on 109 Kensington Church Street London W8 7LN.
The shop on Lamb's Conduit street has a homely, lived-in feel and a welcoming atmosphere. There are vintage posters on the wall and a few things other than books to buy (I would like to see more things - such as bags made using the designs of the vintage fabric). The books are laid out with little blurbs/info labels, to help those just browsing, and there are usually a couple of pre-wrapped versions of some of the books if you are looking to buy a gift.
The shop usually has one or two staff present, one to serve customers and another more occupied with other work. I have always found the staff helpful and attentive if I couldn't find something. On one occasion I was looking for a book for a male friend, which given the predominance of women's writing is possibly a little unusual, but the member of staff I asked for help was really thoughtful, gave me a few different suggestions and I felt really satisfied with the selection that I made. I have never felt rushed or unwelcome, even if I have spent quite a while browsing.
I believe they also host reading groups in the shops, which would be a lovely I think!
I would highly recommend the shop as a place to buy books that you might not have heard of before, that are special and heart warming, and a fantastic place to buy gifts.
It is also possible to buy Persephone Books from their website, http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/index.asp or their mail order catalogue, and I would recommend these if you can't make it to the store, but if you can go, definitely try it!
I first heard about Persephone Books when I read a newspaper article about the success of their bestselling title 'Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day' by Winifred Watson. Intrigued by the storyline, I looked up their website (see link above) and ordered the book along with another 2 (there is a discount when you buy 3 at once and I am always one for a bargain!). Service was prompt, friencly and personal and as a bonus, you are sent a magazine called Persephone Quarterly throughout the year tempting you with more titles and reviews. I resolved to visit the shop as soon as I could! Persephone was started by Nicola Beauman who has her own academic interest in women's fiction and is dedicated to rediscovering and reprinting the literary gems by and about women of the last century. They produce 2 books per quarter including fiction, poetry, diaries, recipe books etc. All are bound in the characteristic soft grey cover with an identical grey slip cover: the title is depicted on a cream panel on the front and spine of the book. The endpapers display fabrics which in some way match the storyline, i.e. they are from the same era and they are evocative of the spirit of the book. If nothing else, they look fantastic on your bookcase and they are a joy to handle. There is also the bonus of the matching bookmark that arrives inside each book and occasionally a postcard showing an image pertinent to that work. The books are softback and cost £10 each, no matter what the size. The shop (finally!) is in Lamb's Conduit Street in Bloomsbury: a wonderfully old and characteristic building which invites you in to browse. I unfortunately chose the wrong day to go as the shop was filled with willing volunteers sending off the next issue of the Quarterly magazine. (I think the fact that they were volunteers speaks volumes about the devotion that the books inspire!). I was nonetheless greeted enthusiastically and invited to browse. The displays were good, the
service was excellent and having made my selection I departed with an invitation to come back and get to know the staff better when I was next in London. Alas, I live far away, so it may be some time. For those lucky enough to live nearby, Persephone also arrange regular lunchtime talks on their books featuring many of the people who have written new forewords or afterwords for the reprints. Persephone is a passion, forget trashy fiction and read some of the most thought-provoking and un-putdownable books around. I'd particularly recommend Winifred Watson, Mollie Panter-Downes and Marghanita Laski if you would like a starting point.