Persephone’s books

Those who regularly browse the new fiction shelves may have noticed the recent quiet infiltration of small, dove-grey paperbacks. These are some of the offerings of Persephone Books, a publisher whose field of endeavour is to reprint “forgotten” novels of the twentieth century.

Mainly by women authors, Persephone’s catalogue includes novels, short stories, diaries and cookery books. Persephone reprinted and repopularized Winifred Watson’s Miss Pettigrew lives for a day, now made into the movie starring Frances McDormand. Persephone has a website and a real shop that you can visit next time you’re in London, at the wonderfully named Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury.

They now offer 81 books in print, some “minor” works by big names, some by unfamiliar authors. At the moment, I am reading Flush by Virginia Woolf , a novella about Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s dog. If you never usually read a preface (guilty), make an effort with Persephone’s; they are readable rather than scholarly, written by authors of our own time.

Persephone books offer something new, albeit old, filling the gap left by the Virago imprint. For those of us old enough to be tired of the “modern novel” (“how they all seem to be the same, my dear”) these little books may offer timely refreshment.