Monday, 7 December 2009
A very great profession (Beauman)
I am very excited as tonight I am off to the Woodstock Bookshop with a friend (soon to be colleague again) to hear Nicola Beauman speak about Persephone books. My friend has an extensive collection of Virago Modern Classics, but doesn't own a Persephone book, so I am hoping to be able to convert her.
In preparation for hearing Nicola speak, I decided to read her book A very great profession : the woman's novel: 1914-1939. (It was one of the things that kept me occupied on my sick bed last week). And what a wonderful book it was. I felt that the book encapsulated and contextualised all of the reading that I have done in the past year, which has been heavily weighted towards women's fiction of the first half of the twentieth century.
The book starts from Beauman's curiosity after seeing a Kate O'Brien library book in the basket of Laura, the heroine of the film Brief Encounter. Laura went weekly to change her library book at Boots, and this led Beauman to wonder what other books she might have read. And this led her to a quest to find out about what middle class women would have read during the inter-war period.
Packed with quotes from novels, at some points I felt the book read like the Persephone catalogue, and indeed many of the books she mentions have now been republished by Persephone. I kept a notebook to hand and jotted down titles that I have not come across yet for future inspiration - who knows, they might turn up as the next Persephones. One question I will be asking Nicola if I get the chance is what she plans to publish next! The book also has a list of the novelists mentioned in the text, with brief bio and mentions of some of their books which I found fascinating.
My copy was of course the Persephone edition, although the book was originally published by Virago, and so I am considering it "read" for my Virago Venture (and will post a link to this post on my VVV blog!). In a departure from the traditional endpapers that utilise fabric or designs of the period, the endpapers are the covers from the two Virago editions of the book, one of which I share with you here... (I have to say I would quite like a Virago copy of this too).