Monday, 12 March 2007

Persephone books - almost as good as finding a decent bookshop in Devon

'Oh, the bliss of Persephone Books!' says India Knight in her own treat of a book, The Shops. I picked up Knight's book in my local Oxfam shop and although it's not universally admired, I roared my way through it, and "pants of steel", "ooh, dirt!" and other choice phrases have stuck with me. I won't bore you with my shopping habits and peccadilloes (ones inspired by Knight or otherwise) but her recommendation of Persephone Books' collection of forgotten twentieth century classics is something I truly thank her for. Because they arrive so fast (next day), if you are up to pointing feebly at the catalogue, it's worth asking a friend to order something for you on-line if you are in bed with a dose of flu, as the books will arrive by the time you are feeling up to reading but can't yet face pottering about. And these are very much recovering-from-flu books - a certain surface sweetness containing considerable depth. But I also want to read them any evening wrapped in my fleece rug with the dogs at my feet - learning from the masters (mainly female) how to avoid cliché if nothing else (too late for that). The only problem is that you might find yourself galloping through them and they are not the cheapest of paperbacks, and there are 70 of them. That might sound like plenty, but if you get through two or three a month, it won't take more than a couple of years (and a wodge of dosh) to devour the lot. I have just finished Dorothy Whipple's They Were Sisters. Utterly compelling with more bite than Eastenders on a VERY good day, with rogues, a truly evil villain, sweet souls, despair, studies of fecklessness and empty vanities. Unfortunately, the last few pages fell out of the covers as I reached the end; I emailed Persephone and they have promised me a replacement - amazing service.
If anyone can recommend any decent bookshops in Devon that have piles of good fiction, I'd be eternally grateful. Waterstones in Exeter and elsewhere have managed to turn what were idiosyncratic spaces to spend hours choosing and discarding into antiseptic lines of bestseller fodder. I yearn for the fab but tiny bookshop in Ashbourne in Derbyshire where the owner would ask you what you had last enjoyed and then heap you up with recommendations for further delight. Having hunted for it on-line it seems to have disappeared! I only visited once a year but came away with 10 or 20 books at a time.

2 comments:

mutterings and meanderings said...

Get thee to Northumberland - we have Barter Books http://www.barterbooks.co.uk/

By the way, I love the Chagall pic. My favourite is I and the Village.

(oops, sorry, I'm from Northumberland... I'm not supposed to show signs of culture...)

Debbie said...

Thank you M&M. There's masses of culture in Devon - but I've sadly not found the bookshops yet....and as beautiful as Northumberland is, I'm never moving again (famous last.....)