Sunday, February 27, 2011

I took this photo because I misread the rules for a photo competition as part of the Persephone Reading Weekend. The competition was for something else, but I liked the picture and decided to post it here. The book (illustrated in the photo by my son's toys!) is The Crowded Street, by Winifred Holtby, my second Persephone of the weekend, and I must say it's rather hard going after the innocent charm of Miss Buncle's Book. I shall persevere, however, and post my review upon completion.

In the meantime, here are links to several other Persephone Books, which I have read and reviewed in the past.

The Home-Maker, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, by Winifred Watson
Brook Evans, by Susan Glaspell
Every Eye, by Isobel English
Marjory Fleming, by Oriel Malet
Farewell Leicester Square, by Betty Miller
The Victorian Chaise-longue, by Marghanita Laski
Fidelity, by Susan Glaspell
William: An Englishman, by Cicely Hamilton

The Persephone Books are works of early 20th century literature, mostly by women authors, that were popular upon first publication, but that slipped through the cracks of time and languished unknown and unread for many years before being rescued and reprinted. You can find the full list of these wonderful publications here; so far I have read 25 out of 90, with several others currently in my TBR pile. Sadly I do not own any of the elegant dove-grey volumes yet, since they are somewhat beyond my budget, but I have been fortunate enough to find a number of them through our public library system. Though I have liked some much more than others, in general I highly recommend these excellent books.
I'm sliding this post in under the wire for Persephone Reading Weekend, I hope. We spent most of the weekend in town with my parents-in-law, which allowed me to read but not to blog. I had hoped to get through three Persephones, but sadly only managed one and a half; fortunately the one was very much worthwhile. Miss Buncle's Book, by D.E. Stevenson, reminded me a great deal of my first Persephone read, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. Both are the sort of novel that I wish was still written nowadays--perfect, sweet, charming, and delightful. They are not at all "realistic", but are lovely daydream-like stories where everything turns out for the best and everyone (well, nearly) is happy at the end.

Miss Buncle is a spinster living in an English village, who turns to writing when her inheritance begins to run out. Knowing nothing but the people around her, she spins a tale that is not exactly fiction; every character in her novel is easily recognizable as one or other of her neighbors. To her surprise, the novel is snapped up by the first publisher to whom she sends it, and even more to her surprise, it is consequently read by the very people who feature (not so favorably) within it. No one suspects Miss Buncle as the pseudonymous author, but certain members of the village are very determined to uncover the secret.