Why Persephone Books is celebrating overlooked women writers

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Wednesday May 29, 2019 at 8:25pm

Persephone Books reprints neglected works by women writers of the mid-20th century. Sarah Lyall tells us what makes these books so special

 

Lamb’s Conduit Street seems almost too adorable to be real, as if Ye Olde Fantasy Englande, the one that exists in your head, had suddenly sprung to life. But it feels exactly right that this cobblestone thoroughfare in Bloomsbury, filled as it is with idiosyncratic shops selling artisanal cheese and homemade cakes and other rarefied items, should also be home to Persephone Books, a gem of a place devoted mostly to overlooked works by female writers of the mid-20th century.

Walking into the shop feels for a moment like walking back in time. Vintage posters exhort wartime women to, for instance, Join the Wrens, the British women’s naval service. But the present is here, too. In the window is a blowup of Sen Mitch McConnell’s ill-tempered remarks about Sen Elizabeth Warren in 2017, using language that sounds decidedly Jane Eyre-ish: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

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