Once upon a time there was a wicker bookcase, where all of my Persephone books lived. I was delighted to find it, a few years ago know, because it was a smaller version of my Virago bookcase, and the two looked lovely together. At first there was space for a few more additions back then, but that space filled up and eventually the collection outgrew its home.
That was why, when we acquired another wicker bookcase and started to think about what should go where, I decided that the Persephone collection had to move. I was never entirely convinced that it was the styles of the book and the shelf quite suited each other, and they’re a little less accessible than they were but the plain shelves in pale wood that they sit on now suit them much better.
That left me a bookcase to fill, and that’s where the story of the Where-Virago-Led-Me Bookcase began.
I had the idea of putting all of the old hardback books by Virago authors that I’d collected over the years in one bookcase.
I realised quite quickly that they wouldn’t all fit, and so I took out the authors that had also been published by Persephone, in the hope that I would be able to do a similar bookcase for Persephone one day. I had to put a couple of authors I felt less fo a bond with to one side too, and I was sorry to have to do that, but I was delighted with what was left.
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The first shelf is home to books by G B Stern and Sylvia Townsend Warner.
I picked up a lovely, seasonal story named The Ten Days of Christmas and that started me collecting her fiction. And then I picked up Monogram her first collection of memoirs in the library and that started me collecting her non fiction. I love her versatility, her intelligence and her wit.
I still remember the wonderful day when I came across a long line of books by and about Sylvia Townsend Warner in a second-hand bookshop. The six collections of short stories live here, I have a couple more in paperback on another bookcase, and I hope to pick up the others that I don’t have one day; because STW really was mistress of the art of short story writing
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The second shelf has to be my favourite – because it holds books by Margery Sharp and Margaret Kennedy.
I adore Margery Sharp’s books and I really hope that they will find their way back into print someday soon. In the meantime I’ve collected most of the gettable ones – there are a few more in my collection of elderly paperbacks that I’ll photograph another day – and I dream of the earliest titles that are ridiculously scarce and even more ridiculously priced on the rare occasions when copies appear for sale.
I was delighted that so many people joined in the celebrations for Margery Sharp Day – and I’ll definitely be throwing her another party next January.
I love Margaret Kennedy just as much, but for very different reasons because she’s a very different writer. As most of her books are in print I’m building my collection slowly and steadily. It’s hard to pick favourites because her books are very diverse, but if you pushed me I think I’d pick The Feast. Or Lucy Carmichael. Or ….
I’m not planning to repeat Margaret Kennedy Reading Week, but I’m thinking of a ‘Margaret Kennedy Day’ on her birthday, next April. And I’m thinking of maybe doing the same thing for one or two other authors.
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The next shelf is home to books by Ann Bridge, Rachel Ferguson, Elizabeth Jenkins and Ruth Adam.
‘The Light-Hearted Quest’ – a book I picked up in a charity shop many years ago – was my introduction t0 Ann Bridge, and when I found that it was part of a series I started to track down the other books. I have most of them now, and a few of her other books, but I’m still missing a couple. I know that Bloomsbury Reader has them all back in print now, but the would feel like cheating. But reading Enchanter’s Nightshade earlier in the year reminded me how good Ann Bridge was at a particular kind of book, and so maybe I will cheat ….
I have only read one book by Rachel Ferguson, but because she has been published by both Virago and Persephone I have picked up her books whenever I could.
I bought The Phoenix’s Nest by Elizabeth Jenkins in a bookshop closing-down sale. It was a little more than I would usually pay, but I’d never come across the title before, and I wanted to buy something before the owner. When I got it home and looked it up I couldn’t find anything out about it – I would have wondered if it was by another Elizabeth Jenkins, but I knew that it wasn’t because the cover references Harriet – and so I’m inclined to think it was a very good buy.
I have yet to read Ruth Adam, but as she comes warmly recommended by both Darlene and Scott, as she’s published been published by both Virago and Persephone, it seemed sensible to invest in a few of her books ….
The fourth – and final – shelf holds books by Sheila Kaye-Smith and Pamela Frankau
I came across a number of Sheila Kaye-Smith’s books in the 50p box outside my local second-hand bookshop quite a few years ago, before I had read any of her work, and I was smitten by titles like ‘Ember Lane’, ‘Sussex Gorse’, ‘Green Apple Harvest’, ‘Star Brace’ …. Since then I have read one of her Virago titles – Joanna Godden – and one of these books – The End of the House of Alard – and found much to enjoy.
But while I like her books I have to say that Virago has introduced me to finer writers; including Pamela Frankau . When I read her for the first time – the book was The Willow Cabin – I was delighted that I had already rescued a couple of her books from the 50p box, and since then I have successfully tracked down a few more of her out-of-print titles.
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And that’s it!
Now tell me, how are your books arranged …. ?