This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned a Persephone Books title, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. Again, they’ve chosen a perfect gem to resurrect. This cheery, comic tale, set in 1930s London, begins with shy Miss Pettigrew, ‘with a timid, defeated expression and terror quite discernible in her eyes, if anyone cared to look’, calling on the glamorous Miss LaFosse. She is hoping to gain employment as a governess, but becomes swept into a world of style, society and night clubs, becoming invaluable to her hostess.
Watson wittily adopts Miss Pettigrew’s perspective: ‘Shocked by such flighty thoughts Miss Pettigrew took her imagination severely in hand and forced it back to the practical.’ Her upbringing as a gentlewoman initially inhibits her enjoyment of Delysia LaFosse’s more louche existence: ‘Odd,’ said Miss Pettigrew conversationally, ‘the undermining effect of flowers on a woman’s common sense.’ The transformation of her character is simply lovely: she is physically transformed by Miss LaFosse and her friend’s application of make up, curls and a velvet gown. Her personal transformation happens concurrently. She shows herself to be intelligent, sharp and free-spirited, despite her jittery inner monologue. The little details, like the way she ensures where ever she sits she can glimpse her new self in the mirror, bring this tale to life.
This is just the sort of book that everyone should read at the start of a new year: it is optimistic, funny and has a heart-warming happy ending. It reminds me of P. G Wodehouse in style and humour. Also, the illustrations are lively and really give it splendid character.
Filed under books, Reviews
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The perfect time for giving and receiving reading and writing paraphernalia. Hopefully, you’ll all be buying my proofreading and editing Christmas Vouchers here for the talented writer in your life, but in case there’s still some room in your stockings, here’s my suggested list for Santa.
Brilliant falling bookend, creating that wonderful sense of trepidation before you’ve even picked up a new thriller.
I Capture the Castle tea towel. Reminding us that sometimes lovelier things than scrubbing broccoli molecules out of a sieve can take place in a kitchen sink.
Hairpins– because everything about you should scream well-read. Even your hairdo.
Puns and Shakespeare- these are a few of my favourite things (sung with glee like Julie Andrews). The bard himself would definitely have been proud to wear this if t-shirts had been invented instead of the blouses and bloomers they wore back then. To buy or not to buy- that is the question.
Next, something seasonal, but not saccharine: a cool but creepy print, inspired by Charles Dickens’ ghost of Christmas yet to come. I could very easily have written a whole post on pictures from Society 6, but I have to restrict the time I spend on that website- it’s a maze of glory that I don’t have the wall space to accommodate.
Writers, just for a change, bring your stories to life in a different way. Sometimes it’s nice to see something physically – visually – expressed; it’s all great story-telling! Also, Christmas is all about quality animation- The Snowman is a personal highlight. That + Labyrinth= Bowie’s greatest moments. I’m willing to try anything that kids look that happy doing! Four thumbs up!
The gift that keeps on giving- a Persephone Books subscription! Who doesn’t love getting post that isn’t bills or circulars? Quality literature through the post every month- what could be better?
Alternatively, *awkward plug warning* you could by my cheap and cheery ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. It’s got pictures and everything!
Dear Persephone Books,
These last few days, my time has not been measured in hours and minutes, but by pages and chapters, so deeply has Emma Smith’s ‘The Far Cry’ absorbed me. The vivid, multicoloured, extraordinary description of the sudden flight of a young girl and her father to India is a delight to read. The sense of place is sublimely evoked by a gift for listing unparalleled in modern literature!
Oh, Persephone Books, you spoil me! For it is not just this gem that you’ve excavated from the annals of women’s literary history; you have collated and curated a stunning collection of neglected and out of print works from the early to mid-twentieth century.
‘Cheerful Weather for the Wedding’ by Julia Strachey is another triumph. This close, sardonic deconstruction of a family on a single day makes for a pacey novella worth reading.
I feel as if I could hole myself up in a grey, paperbacked fortress and be merry for a good long time with only your beautiful wares for company. Never before have I been so enchanted by the endpapers of volumes, so carefully selected from archives and museums to illustrate the era and subject matter of the texts. For Susan Glaspell’s ‘Fidelity’, for example, the image of 19th Century quilting beautifully echoes the scenery and content of the novel. This is such a marvellous story of a woman running off with someone else’s husband. Its moral depth and compassion are admirable.
I must also mention ‘The New House’ by the brilliantly named Lettice Cooper. This is an intimate portrayal of a single day in the lives of a family moving from a grand house with beautiful gardens to a smaller property overlooking a council estate. The characters are believably complex and their relationships acutely naturalistic. Persephone Books, your choices are exceptional, and I haven’t even got around to mentioning the non-fiction works, or short story collections (‘Tea with Mr Rochester’ by Frances Towers was a particular joy).
Thank you, Persephone Books, for finding and reprinting these wonderful examples of women’s literature. You have made me very happy.
with love and admiration,