All Virago and Persephone All AugustAnother lovely Persephone book today – you can see its slim volume in the photo here, but although it’s small in size, it’s packed with absolute gems, and is a wonderful read that will be a re-read sooner rather than later. Thank you to Ali from Heaven-Ali for the lovely birthday present! If you’ve not discovered Persephone Books and you like, broadly, women’s mid-century domestic fiction (although the list is far more diverse than that summary suggests), do pop over to their website and have a look, or drop into their delightful bookshop in Bloomsbury.

Mollie Panter-Downes – “Minnie’s Room”

(21 January 2015 – from Ali)

I tend to think I don’t like short stories, although I love those of Elizabeth Taylor and Dorothy Whipple, and I had been hearing a lot about this author and was constantly being told I’d like her, then read “The Persephone Book of Short Stories“, and had to add this one to my wishlist right away.

This is Panter-Downes’ “peacetime” stories and are accompanied in the Persephone collection by a book of “wartime” stories I will also have to get. They were published in the New Yorker in the 1950s to mid-1960s. Particularly the earlier ones, covering the just-post-War period, are still full of Land Girls and rationing, of drabness, greyness and terrible fogs, good behaviour and quietly desperate lives, especially of married women.

Husbands are boring or boorish, dreadful people want to buy your house, no one wants to deal with Mother, seaside hotel dining rooms are pretty always deadly and ageing is a horrible business … but there are lovely descriptions, one theme that comes through as you read them (desperately trying to eke them out but fighting the temptation to guzzle through them like a bag of old-fashioned sweets) being hairy tweeds and doggy faces, and the transformative nature of love is found in seemingly the most unlikely of places. Each story really is a small jewel to be savoured.

This book was part of my All Virago and Persephone / All August reading project, as part of the LibraryThing Virago Group.

20BooksofSummer logoThis book was also part of my #20BooksOfSummer project, being Book 14 of the 20

This book would suit … someone who thinks they don’t like short stories, anyone interested in British lives just post-Second World War.