Philobiblon: Persephone Books: The old and the new

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Persephone Books: The old and the new

My latest Persephone Quarterly tells me that this season's books are about the very young and the very old. Doreen, published in 1946, is the tale of a nine-year-old Cockney girl sent away from the threat of bombing in 1939 to live with a middle-class family in the country.

The Persephone account says: As Jessica Mann [author of the preface] observes: ‘In 1946 few British people had yet heard of child psychology and specialists were only beginning to understand that bombs might have traumatised children less than the belief that their parents had deserted them.’ However, she concludes, ‘the separation of parent and child is a cruel fate but not as cruel as the risk of death.’

The psychologists might only have just thought of it, but the book makes it obvious the writers had.

The second book is There Were No Windows (1944), "based on the last months in the life of the writer Violet Hunt". She's suffering from a deterioration of memory that would probably today attract the label "Alzheimer's".

If you haven't heard of the company, they "reprint forgotten classics by twentieth-century (mostly women) writers". The books are paperbacks, but beautifully presented - ideal for presents. In fact I've give Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day as a present several times due to multiple rave reviews - really must read it myself one of these days.

But really, if you're stuck for a present idea, they're ideal. And no, they're not paying me!


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