Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My favourite things....

My new favourite thing is Persephone Books - - I have to stop myself buying them all up. But apart from the truly beautiful design (these elegant gray covers with cream titles and then inside different fabric designs as endpapers) they are just extraordinary books available.
The idea that these are genteel books by genteel lady authors, now forgotten is rubbish though. They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple has an unflinching look at domestic violence. And I've just finished There Were No Windows by Norah Hoult which is one of the most terrifying books I have ever read about what it feels like to lose your mind. This is a review of it in the Spectator
I really didn't think about a third in whether I could stay reading it, but it's absolutely compulsive. Claire Temple is a dreadful snob, who has got by on charm and you can frequently sympathise with how difficult she is to live with. But the dismissive way many of her former friends and servants treat someone who is old and losing her memory is chilling too.
Claire is based on Violet Hunt who had once been proposed to by Oscar Wilde and had a liaison with Ford Madox Ford (who is Wallace in the book). Hoult used to go and visit Hunt in Campden Hill Road when the older woman was losing her memory - and used much of the material in the book. (Interesting...could you still get away with that now)
From my point of view finding a book written in 1944 which talks about bad behaviour in the war (in particular a couple caught in flagrante on the sandbags) is great, because it confirms many of the ideas I wanted to look at in my novel (no sandbag incidents there though)....Plus it gives lots of practical details about the war (eg Barkers closing at 4.30 because of the blackout which I found useful). And when she is taken to the pub there is a clear indication how reverence for the 'toffs' has gone, and that no one should really be surprised at the Attlee 45 victory....
The only problem is the books at £10 each plus postage and I can't bankrupt myself buying more....Can I?

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