I read Cranford a few years before it was adapted for the delightful tv series that it became, and although I had enjoyed the gentle humour and wry observations in Jane Austen’s works, it was the first time I had realised that Classic Books could be laugh out loud funny. I remember errupting into giggles on the bus, in the doctor’s waiting room and all sorts of other unsuitable places! I had enjoyed Classic Books before, but now I really loved them.
It was Jane Brocket’s blog, Yarnstorm, which first introduced me to Persephone books, which I now adore but struggled with a tiny bit at first. I remember eagerly ordering a Dorothy Whipple from the library and being frustrated and disappointed with it and sending it back, unread. A few months later I tried again, and they just ‘clicked’ for me, and I don’t find them hard work at all, just a wonderful literary treat. Dorothy Whipple is undoubtedly one of my favourite authors, and I can barely wait for a trip to the Persephone shop in April.
So when I find myself in the bigger library at the bottom of the hill and in need of something to read, with nothing particuarly in my mind, I head for the Classic section, and after a cursory glance, look to see which Persephone books are on the shelf. Their distinctive dove grey covers make them easy to spot! A week or so ago, I came away with Miss Buncle’s Book which I did not much fancy when I first read about it on the Persephone website, and for what reason I cannot remember. I am so glad that I gave it a go though, because it is another book that it is laugh out loud funny, and a delight from beginning to end. As well as having the power to make me laugh in common with Cranford, the flavour of the book is just the same – set in a small village and concerned with the daily lives of the inhabitants there. If asked to sum the book up, I would say it is Cranford for the 20th Century (it was written in 1934). Miss Buncle is in hard financial times, and decides her choices are down to keeping hens, or writing a book, and as she does not much care for hens, she decides to write a book, and looks around her for inspiration. If you are looking for a light but warm and happy read, then I cannot recommend it enough. Of course, I would always suggest try your library first, but if you wish to buy a copy, or read a bit more about it, then click on the link (the title of this post).
There is, happily, a sequel, which I already have on order from the library. Discovering this kind of writer, and that kind of publisher, the genre of ‘hot water bottle’ fiction makes me feel curiously completed, somehow. You know that feeling, when someone gives you a gift, perhaps something they have made, but anyway, something that just sings out to your soul, and is something that is ‘so you’, and as well as loving the gift itself, you love the feeling that this person really understands and ‘gets’ you…well discovering this area of fiction makes me feel like that.
I have yet to find a Persephone novel that I have not loved, and have often gone on to read more by the authors I have discovered. Some things to note, should you decide to explore the wonderful world of Persephone for yourself, either direct from them, or through your local library….you must have a favourite spot to sit in to read – the novels are compelling, and you will find yourself wanting to sit for a good long time to read, to take it to bed, on the bus and probably even the bath! You will also need a favourite cup and saucer, and a tea cosie to keep your tea pot warm. Then, just be ready to sigh with pleasure, a small smile on your lips, as you open the pages, and begin.