Tuesday, 7 July 2009

First Persephone week revisited - Marjory Fleming

Last night I read The two Mrs Abbots by D.E. Stevenson, which is the sequel to the sequel of Miss Buncle's book. Whilst I really enjoyed the first sequel, I felt quite disappointed by this one. Miss Buncle was as Miss Buncle-ish as ever, and there were a few entertaining moments, but it lacked the intriguing plot of the previous two. So, get hold of Miss Buncle married, but don't bother with The two Mrs Abbots unless your TBR pile is completely empty!

So today I thought I'd write about Marjory Fleming, which probably the most intriguing of the books that I read last week, even if I didn't hugely like it. I'm keen to blog about it, as it's not a title that I've seen other people write about yet - there seems to be a core of Persephone books which are being read by everyone, and others which are not yet out there. Please let me know if you are wrong!
This is the fictionalised biography of a small girl who wrote journals and poems, and is the youngest person to have an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - she died, aged 8 from measles. The Persephone edition includes the original entry, written by Leslie Stephens, about her, which was interesting, but it's also worth taking a look at the entry in The New ODNB by Kathryn Sutherland. Apparently her reputation stemmed from three journals that she wrote aged 7-8 in 1810-11. These were preserved by her sister, and then portions were published 50 years later with extensions and embellishments. In the Victorian period she was then constructed as a child genius with various stories arising about her life, such as a friendship with Walter Scott (there isn't actually evidence for this), which led to her being included in the original ODNB. As the New DNB entry states, Oriel Malet's book "is largely devoted to extending the legend".
What I did like about the book was the extracts from the journal, but mostly I found the book a bit twee (and I understand why a bit more now that I've read Sutherland's article) and I didn't actually find Marjory to be a hugely likeable character. She was precocious, prone to moods and selfishness, and I wasn't really sure how much more special or advanced her writing was than other girls. Admittedly, this was in 1810 when it was rare for girls to be educated, but one wonders whether she would actually have gone on to become a writer who we would still be aware of today (which is what Stephens and Malet seem to imply) if she had not died so soon.

By the way, I'm planning a second week of Persephone at the end of August. I've made the radical decision that I *do* want to keep my Persephone books separate, and have identified a space where they can be moved to. However, in order to do that, I will need to move some other books around, and it will all be easiest if some of them have been read first - this book move needs to happen in tandem with the lessening of the number of books on the TBRBC. I'm intending to keep them in numerical order, with the ones which are unread at the end. I won't be doing the same with my Viragos, not yet, anyway, but I might do with my Greyladies. Aesthetics winning out over librarianly instinct - who'd have thought it? Still, there is plenty of time to change my mind...
I haven't yet drawn up the list, but it will certainly conclude with A fortnight in September, as we will be on holiday by the seaside at the end of the week, and that seems appropriate. It will probably include Fidelity, as I enjoyed the other Susan Glaspell book so much. It may include Mariana, although I am putting off the moment of reading the only Monica Dickens book I haven't read for the first time. If I have some busy days then it will almost certainly include Hetty Dorval or Every Eye since they are slim volumes. But one of the joys of the last Persephone week was choosing books completely at random, so I perhaps I shan't plan too much.


  1. I've just lately become aware of Greyladies thanks to Danielle of A Work in Progress. It was interesting to learn that Noel Streatfeild wrote under the name of Susan Scarlett! A Fortnight in September and Mariana are on my TBR shelf as well so I look forward to your review of them.

  2. I agree that there do seem to be certain Persephones that are less popular/known as the others.

    So... I think I going to join you for Persephone week! I probably won't manage a book a day every day but I should be able to do it cumulatively. I had a couple of Persephones on my summer reading list anyway and several more still to be read (one of which is Mariana) and I was so envious of you doing this... so, yes, I'm in! I think I shall also blog about it tomorrow. Do you mind, or, does it excite you too?!

  3. I had very different feelings about The Two Mrs. Abbotts and Miss Buncle Married. I really enjoyed them both but preferred The Two Mrs. Abbotts more. Miss Buncle Married seemed a slower read that just did not really pull me in, whereas, I just wanted to keep reading The Two Mrs. Abbotts because I was enjoying it so much.
    A week of reading Persephones sounds wonderful! Too bad I only own 3 of them right now.

  4. Darlene - I'm glad you've come across Greyladies

    Claire - absolutely. As I said in my post, I think the best thing is that you CAN do it without being bored because the books are so different. You could have a week of reading Persephone books, and just see how many you got through...

    Jeanette - hi - I hadn't come across your blog before, but it's another one to inspire my reading :) I'm interested that you liked the Two Mrs Abbotts more - I was just hooked by the bit in Miss Buncle Married where she reads the letter and was desperate to find out what happened. I agree with the post you wrote yesterday about looking out for more DE Stevenson - I'm looking forward to reading Mrs Tim when that is republished.

  5. I would love to join you on your next Persephone reading week. I really want to get to Miss Buncle's Book, Family Roundabout and .... oh, all the other ones I have too ;-)


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