Think of the most heavenly place on the planet. Okay, now add 100 books written by women with the loveliest book covers piled onto book shelves and on top of tables. Too good to be true I hear you say, but friends, this place exists and is more perfect than you could ever imagine.
My friend Ali found out about Persephone Books on Instagram and insisted we pay the shop a visit during her stay in London. We were both English lit majors at uni, so we already love book shops/reading, but knowing that a place existed to fully support female authors from the 20th century who were out of publication was out of this world. The shop’s pastel façade sits among the other quirky shops on London’s Lamb’s Conduit Street, but it stands out as a true gem. Also, how perfect was the timing of this visit? I’m writing/posting this on International Women’s Day 2017, not because I planned to, but because it just happened. Amazing.
We walked in expecting to find a few good books, but did I think I was going to be frantically searching every title I saw in my Goodreads app to add to my ‘Want to read’ list? No. Did I make a mental note to apply for a position at the shop? YES (please hire me! Also, sorry for taking sneaky pics of your beautiful books/mugs/store). This place has charm coming out the wazoo, where tables are adored with fresh flowers, interesting pottery and postcards so beautiful you will be moved to tears.
The shelves of Persephone runneth over with books that have THE LOVELIEST COVERS I’VE EVER SEEN. I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, but when you incite bookshelf envy out of a solid, muted colour with nothing but a little rectangle for the book’s title and author, it must be praised and admired. The people at Persephone Books are also complete geniuses and friends to all book lovers because they have summaries placed right below each title. These are brilliant because they are equal parts concise and descriptive. Seriously, I’ve read entire blog posts that aren’t as informative as these short summaries. Each book also comes with an equally beautiful bookmark that matches that specific book’s end paper on one side and has another (longer) descriptive summary on the otherside (free w/ purchase or 50p)!!! Innovative! Civilisation at its peak! Barnes and Noble – STEP UP YOUR GAME. I did cheat and got one random bookmark that didn’t correspond to its appropriate book, but it was SO PRETTY I HAD TO. Not only can you mark your place in a book, but when your well-read friend asks for a recommendation, you can just hand over your bookmark and nod your head in agreement as they declare their need to read that book immediately.
Ali and I each walked out with three books (3 for £30 is a beautiful thing, my friends), but I literally need every book in the shop. I chose Mariana by Monica Dickens (yes, of the Dickens clan), a story of a young girl in Kensington who finds her way through life and love and if that isn’t me at the mo, IDK what is. My second choice was An Interrupted Life: the Diaires and Letters of Etty Hillesum 1941-43. This one really stood out to me because even after taking a course on Holocaust representation in literature and film, I felt that I didn’t read enough Holocaust stories about women, written by women, so this one felt like it will provide me with the insight I need. My final pick was A Woman’s Place: 1910-1975 by Ruth Adam and I chose it for the historical and contemporary context. It’s meant to chronicle women’s rights movements, so obviously a must-read during these times (slash all times, tbh).
I’m a couple chapters into Mariana and am thoroughly enjoying learning of the heroine’s life in 1930s London so far and am v excited to continue reading it. I’ll report back with a mini review (ha, we’ll see how ‘mini’ I can make that), but if you do one thing in London this week/ever – GO TO PERSEPHONE BOOKS. And then lend me every book you buy. I’ll lend you mine. We’ll be Persephone book club mates and the world will be a better place.