The Question of What Should Sit on Top of the Persephone Bookcase ….

Last week I took a week of my annual leave to reorganise the house.

Things didn’t go entirely to plan – we need a carpenter to fix a falling curtain rail, a handyman to sort out a jammed window, and I’m waiting for a new car battery so that I can go back to work tomorrow. I was a little over-ambitious,  we did get a heck of a lot done. Every room is pretty much set up as we wanted,  there are more than a dozen bags waiting to go to the Oxfam shop, and I’m much, much happier with the way my books are arranged.

I ‘ve rearranged the alcove where my Persephone bookcase lives, the simple expedient of moving it from the side to the back wall has made it so much more visible and accessible.

I also found that I had a small gap between the top of the bookcase and the windowsill, and I wondered what I might put there,

The answer was always going to be books, because I still have more than I have book-shelf space to house, and of course it was always going to be Persephone related.

The size of the spaces, and the themes of other shelves, meant that the theme was a mixture of three things:

  • Where Persephone Led Me
  • Persephone Books in Other Editions
  • Possibly Persephone

And here it is.


I’m sorry that the picture is a little gloomy, but a dark corner is a wonderfully safe home for precious books, and I don’t want to raise the blind because it could disturb our malfunctioning window.

But let’s talk about the books! I’ll go from top to bottom and from left to right.

* * * * * * * *

The Journal of Katherine Mansfield

The Man of the House rescued this one from a skip!!!

The Professor’s Children by Edith Henrietta Fowler

I was so taken with The Young Pretenders that I had to look to see what else it’s author wrote. Not a great deal it seems, but I did find this book.

Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham

This one went straight on to my wishlist when Claire wrote about it, saying:

‘The entire time I was reading this, I kept thinking how Persephone-like it felt in tone, quality and themes.  And, really, could there be higher praise than that?’

I waited a long time, and eventually an affordable copy appeared.

Broome Stages by Clemence Dane

When I spotted this book I recalled the author’s name from Nicola Beauman’s ‘A Woman’s Profession’, and when I saw the concept – Plantagenet history retold as the story of a theatrical family – I was smitten.

I thought of Susan Howatch ….

* * * * * * * *

Mr Hazard and Mr Hodge by Elinor Wylie

I spotted this in the Oxfam Shop, I didn’t know the title or the author, but it was a nice edition, I liked the title, and when I picked the book up I liked the prose and the fact that it dated from the 1920s. I know little more than that now, but a contemporary review from ‘The Bookman’ suggests that this was an excellent find.

  “Mr. Hodge and Mr. Hazard” is tremendously moving, pathetic, absorbing. If you do not find in it the warmth and beauty of a profound understanding of the mortal heart, I shall be disappointed. If you prefer to find it clever, jewelled, satirical, I suppose you will not be disappointed; for it is Miss Wylie’s special gift that her stories glow with the almost unholy light of enchanting and finished prose. 

A Background for Caroline by Helen Ashton

I was so taken with Helen Ashton’s Doctor Serocold that – once I’d noted which of her books my library had – I went looking to see if there were affordable copies of any others. I didn’t find many, but I did find this.

A Square Circle by Denis Mackail

Sadly my library has none of Denis Mackail’s books in stock, copies seem to be very scarce, and so of course I pounced when I saw this.

* * * * * * *

The Visitors by Mary MacMinnies

This is another one of those books that I spotted,  knew nothing about, picked up out of simple curiosity, and was sufficiently taken with to bring home. All that I can tell you is that it dates from the 1950s, and that the heroine is the wife of a member of a British mission posted to a provincial city in a country behind the Iron Curtain.

I thought of Ann Bridge ….

The Village by Marghanita Laski

I read a library copy, I aspire to a Persephone copy, but I have an elderly hardback rescued from a bargain bin for now.

The Fairies Return by Various Authors

This is a 1930s anthology, bringing together retellings of fairy stories from a wonderful array of authors. The ones that particularly caught my eye were E M Delafield, E OE Somerville and G B Stern ….

The Heart to Artemis: a Writer’s Memoirs by Bryher

I’ve read two of Bryher’s historical novels – The Player’s Boy and This January Tale  – and because I loved them both, because her life sounded fascinating, I ordered this book from the library. I read enough to know that I wanted a copy to keep, and then I spotted a copy in the Oxfam shop.

* * * * * * * *

That’s it!

Just a little selection of books that will catch my eye as I go in or out of the room, and remind me how many good books I have to read and re-read.

Are there any that you know? Are there any that you’d particularly like to hear more about?

* * * * * * * *

28 thoughts on “The Question of What Should Sit on Top of the Persephone Bookcase ….

  1. Ooh, Denis Mackail! What a lovely selection overall. I’ve read “The Village” in another edition, too, so couldn’t get the Persephone one because that felt profligate. I reckon I’ve got room on my Persephone bookcase for about six more once I’ve read and shelved the current ones that are TBR, but I have got some space on top of the rows of books if I need to do that. How much spare space do you have in your Persephone bookcase?


    1. I can probably find space for six to eight, if I find a new home for my G B Stern and Sheila Kaye-Smith books about Jane Austen, and then there will need to be a little more reorganisation. I’d like to upgrade the bookcase, as it was a ‘rescue’ item and it’s showing signs of wear, but I need to be practical about both money and space, so we’ll see a year or two down the line.


  2. OOOOH!!! Tell me more about Helen Ashton”s CAROLINE please.
    It is £12 online.I think your collection of books is brilliant and very appealing to me.(Must fight jealous thoughts)


    1. I think I nabbed the last sensibly priced copy, but hopefully another one will turn up for you one day. For now I can simply say that it looks like a journey through a life kind of book, and of course I’ll tell you more when the moment to read it comes.


  3. I have read “The Village” in the Persephone edition as well as “The Young Pretenders” ad “Greenery Street”. I was ucky to find some second hand Denis Mackail on the net. Since my big probem is that in Frane there is no Oxfam and no charity shops selling English books! I have to rely on publishers and bloggers like you and then try to findbooks on the nest and they are much more expensive… Bur please, tell us more about your tastes: it helps make choices and dream 🙂


    1. I’m very lucky to live in a part of the country with many small charity shops and secondhand bookshops, and I think because it’s a part of the world many people settle in when they retire a good number of interesting older books appear on the shelves. I have quite a number that came from the library of one couple, who always wrote their names or pasted their bookplates inside,

      And of course I look to online sellers as well, for particular authors that I know must have their place in my personal library..

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  4. I’ve been looking at my two main overflowing bookshelves and thinking how nice it would be if they were straightened. You’ve re-inspired me! (Except that whenever I visit your blog I’m tempted to let them overflow even more…)


    1. But at least you have plenty to read. Not everything here is that straight, and the Virago bookcase has several piles perched on the edge waiting to be sorted, but there’s something about Persephone books that makes me keep them relatively orderly.


  5. I would love to read The Professors children as I so loved The Young Pretenders. Like Liz I have The Village in another edition and now have the Persephone to go with it.


  6. Lovely selection! I keep meaning to read more Denis Mackail. And I have the Elinor Wylie on my shelves – I’ve read her book The Venetian Glass Nephew (indeed, I wrote about it at length in my DPhil) and liked it enough to want to try more. But I suspect you might beat me to it…


    1. ‘Mr. Hodge and Mr. Hazard’ have been waiting for me for quite some time now, so I may not beat you to it. The just the title”The Venetian Glass Nephew’ is so enticing that I may have to read the book I have, to see if I like the author’s style enough to start looking for a copy.


  7. ‘The Visitors’ was serialised by the BBC back in the day (in the sixties, I think) and I loved it. Since then, I’ve bought the book, read it twice, then lost it. I think any Persephone fan would love it … I did for its writing and its characterisation and, especially, for its glimpse of life in Poland (that’s obviously where it’s set) in the fifties.


    1. Thank you, I’m delighted to have such a ringing endorsement of a book I liked the look of but knew little about. I do wish the BBC would find a few more such books to adapt now, instead of so many that are so familiar.


  8. Shuffling shelves is *always* satisfying, isn’t it? All of those books sound wonderful, and fancy finding a Mansfield in a skip – glad to see you have The Man of the House so well trained! 🙂 And The Visitors sounds very appealing to me, for obvious reasons…. 🙂


  9. It certainly is, and it distracted me a little from one or two of the duller jobs I might have done. The Man of the House took a while to get a handle on my taste but he’s very good now. He even complains that VMCs no longer have the green covers, because it makes that newer titles more difficult to spot.


  10. The only part about doing up the house that i like is re-arranging the book shelves and discovering books I had either forgotten about or thought I had lost! Lovely arrangement Jane and I now have some more new books to add on my TBR!


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