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Review: The Persephone Book of Short Stories


Pages: 473
Original date of publication: 1909-1986
My copy: 2012 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, January 2013

The Persephone Book of Short Stories is a collection of thirty short stories—some that have been previously published in other Persephone books (crowd pleasers such as Minnie Panter-Downes’s “Good Evening, Mrs Craven” and Irene Nemirovsky’s “Dimanche”)—some that have been published in the Persephone Post, and others that appear here for the first time. The earliest story in the collection, Susan Glaspell’s“A to Z,” was published in 1909 and the last, Georgina Hammick’s “A Few Cases in the Day Case Unit,” in 1986.

My favorite story in the collection is the first: Susan Glaspell’s “A to Z,’ in which a young college graduate gets a job as a dictionary copyist at a publisher’s office. She strikes up a friendship with a young man at the office; the irony of the story being that while these characters’ bread and butter revolves around words, they cannot find words that are adequate to describe their feelings for one another (personally, I could also relate to the main character’s situation of having that feeling of jumping off into the unknown after graduation, and of having a vaguely-defined dream to work in publishing). Other Persephone authors that appear here include Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Berridge, Dorothy Whipple, Frances Towers, Margaret Bonham, Diana Gardner, Diana Athill, EM Delafield, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Norah Hoult, Betty Miller, and Penelope Mortimer. I was also pleased to discover that stories by two more of my favorite authors, Edith Wharton and Dorothy Parker, were included here.

The stories are arranged chronologically and their subjects vary, but the theme is constant; the stories highlight the types of things that women’s lives are focused on: relationships, family, jobs, etc. The collection is therefore a pretty-well-rounded representation of the kind of fiction that Persephone publishes. I only wish that the collection had included fewer stories that had been previously published by Persephone, and more that were new.

Comments

I'm really looking forward to reading my copy, as I am pretty sure I haven't read very many of the stories before (and those that are repeated seem to be ones I liked!). It is a massive book!

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