An A to Z of Persephone Books

I’ve been reading Margaret Oliphant, I’m reading Amber Reeves, and I may fit in another books before the Persephone Readathon hosted by Jessie @ Dwell in Possibility draws to a close.

What I lack is time to think and write about them. I might get there in time but, just in case I don’t, I thought I would do what I often do at times like this.

An A to Z …


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A is for AMOURS DE VOYAGE by Arthur Clough. This will probably be the next Persephone book I read, as I need a book from 1858 for my ‘100 Years of Books’ project.

B is for BIANNUALLY. It is always a red-letter day when the latest Persephone Biannually arrives, with articles, short stories, reviews, events, so much to peruse.

C is for COMING SOON.  ‘Despised and Rejected’ by Rose Allatini, ‘Young Anne’ by Dorothy Whipple and ‘Tory Heaven’ by Marghanita Laski will all be published in April.

D is for DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER, one of a select bank of authors to be published by both Virago and Persephone.

E is for EARTH AND HIGH HEAVEN by Gwethalyn Graham. I have an old edition, and it is one of a small collection of books that I chose to sit on top of my Persephone Bookcase.

F is for FRANKIE BARNABY, the young narrator who finds that she has much to learn in ‘Hetty Dorval’ by Ethel Wilson.

G is for GLADYS HUNTINGDON. My copy of ‘Madame Solario’ is sitting on my bedside table, and I hope it won’t be too long before I to find the time read it.

52c9389586e1fe7af9101dfc6839934aH is for HOSTAGES TO FORTUNE by Elizabeth Cambridge was one of the best books that I read last year.

I is for INDIA. I loved following a young woman’s journey to India in ‘The Far Cry’ by Emma Smith.

J is for JACQUELINE MESNIL-AMAR. My kind of generous Virago Secret Santa sent me two Persephone books from my wishlist, and her memoir ‘Maman What Are We Called Now?’ was one of them.

K is for KAY SMALLSHAW, author of ‘How to Run Your Home Without Help. It’s a book I would love to read, to remind me of some of the changes that my grandmother lived through.

L is for LIBRARY.  I read a library copy of ‘The Village’ by Marghanita Laski, I aspire to a Persephone copy, but I have an elderly hardback rescued from a bargain bin for now.

M is for MARINA by Monica Dickens. The heroine’s name was inspired by Tennyson’s poem.

N is for NORAH HOULT, one of many authors to be found in the beautifully curated ‘Persephone Hook of Short Stories.’

O is for OLGA, the irrepressible title character of ‘The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart; one of a handful of very well chosen stories for children in the Persephone list

P is for PAPER. Persephone books are printed on lovely, thick paper.

Q is for QUEEN ELEANOR. She appears in the second of the pair of novellas by Mrs Oliphant that Persephone published a few years ago.

R is for RUTH HOLLAND. Susan Glaspell tells her story in Fidelity, and, if you haven’t already, you really must find a copy and read it.

S is for SUFFRAGE. ‘No Surrender’ by Constance Maud is a passionate account of the suffragette movement written by one who was there. It hit me emotionally, and it taught me a great deal that I hadn’t known.

T is for TIRZAH GARWOOD. The Man of the House bought me her autobiography – ‘Long Live Great Bardfield’ for Christmas. I was so pleased, because I have read so much praise for this book.

U is for UNREAD. My copy of ‘Miss Buncle’s Book’ by D.E. Stevenson has been sitting waiting to be read for a long time. The right moment hasn’t come, but I’m sure that it will one day.

V is for VERSE. The first novel in verse that I read was ‘Lettice Delmer’ by Susan Miles. I doubted that such a book could hold me, but I put my trust in Persephone and I found that it was utterly compelling.

W is for WOMAN ABOUT THE HOUSE  from’Tell it to a Stranger’ by Elizabeth Berridge. It’s an odd little story, but it still speaks profoundly.

X is for EXHIBITION.  The Persephone Post offers’ a parallel in pictures to the world of
Persephone Books every weekday.’

Y is for YOU MUST LOOK INSIDE .The dove-grey covers make books look alike, but the endpapers within, chosen to match the period and the style of each one, highlight the differences beautifully. I’ve chosen a few favourites to illustrate this post.

Z is for ZINNIA, the very last flower in the index of ‘Gardener’s Nightcap by Muriel Stuart.

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Now that there are 125 books in the Persephone list it’s impossible to fit every gem into an A to Z. So please tell me, which books and authors you couldn’t have left out, which are your particular favourites, and which are you most looking forward to reading?

22 thoughts on “An A to Z of Persephone Books

  1. My absolute favourite Persephone book is The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff. It is ostensibly a very simple story about a family going on their annual holiday at the seaside, but it is a wonderful observation of family dynamics and how these change. Every single character, from the boarding house landlady who has seen better times to the neighbour who looks after the family pet, is so well observed, and the main family members – the parents and almost grown-up children – are beautifully written, quiet, good-hearted people, who each have their own hopes and worries, but who care about one another and don’t want to cause unhappiness.

    There are also fascinating details of seaside holidays a few decades before I experienced them myself – for example, I had no idea that the mother of the family would actually go out every day and buy the food for the landlady to cook for them that night. By the time we were going to places like Dymchurch and Bognor (in the late 1960s) this no longer happened.

    My other top Persephones are probably better known – Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day and Mariana – though with reference to Monica Dickens I actually think The Winds of Heaven is an even better book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved ‘The Fortnight in September’ and you explain its appeal beautifully. Monica Dickens is underappreciated and I can’t help thinking that many of her books would make lovely television drama, if only the people who did the commissioning would cast their nets more widely.


  2. Lovely post, I am so looking forward to those new books. I’m also glad to hear you treasure your edition of Earth and High Heaven, I really loved that one.


    1. Everything I’ve read says to me that ‘Earth and High Heaven’ and I plan to read it as soon as I have the time and the headspace to do it justice. The new spring books are very tempting – two favourites and a new name.


    1. I tried to lean to the less talked about earlier books on the list, because they don’t yet as much attention as they deserve. With so many books in dove grey covers now I think it’s difficult for anyone to keep up with them all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Apart from the Whipples my fave is FORTNIGHT IN SEPTEMBER by RC Sheriff.And PRINCES IN THE LAND.

    YOUNG ANNE by Whipple is published this Summer by Persephone.I love this and have read it twice.


  4. I was so excited by the title of this lovely post, Jane, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve just started reading my first Dorothy Whipple – with the intention of celebrating her birthday with you. I chose Greenbanks because it was available from the library and I love it. That led me to wanting to know more about her which led me to Persephone…. I’ve avoided Persephone for years: I always felt that Virago was enough for me. But now I’ve seen the website, I’m completely hooked. My copy of the biannual and the catalogue will arrive in due course. I can’t wait!


    1. I remember thinking the same thing a few years ago, but of coursed I succumbed, and I think that my Persephone books were excellent investments. I loved ‘Greenbanks’, I think you will too, and I am sure that you have many happy hours of reading and perusing ahead of you.

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  5. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I would urge you all to read How To Run Your Home Without Help. It’s very well written, very funny – and, as I always say, it makes you realise what a wonderful thing progress is, especially when it comes to housework!


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