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17th December 2021

This Letter is only on our website rather than being sent out to everyone on our email list. It's for rather a peculiar reason: if we mention a Persephone book on the Letter, and we frequently do, then – and of course we are delighted about this – quite a few people order it! But here we are at 17th December, still battling to catch up on the orders from two days ago. So if three or four dozen people ordered The New Magdalen (cf. the next paragraph) or even The Fortnight in September (cf. the one after) we might be sunk. It’s a fine balance – between wanting people to order our books, and having the confidence that we can ‘fulfil’ the orders in time. And so:  this letter is for those who read it on the website. Although the January one will be sent, as usual, to our entire mailing list.

We were delighted to be alerted by a kind reader that The New Magdalen has been filmed as Secret Name. Variety calls it ‘an attractive prospect for costume drama fans’ but makes it seem interesting rather than mindless: ‘The novel played on Victorian-era anxieties of class corruption with its story of a former prostitute assuming a dead high-bred woman’s identity only to discover that she wasn’t dead after all, but since subverting the social order no longer carries the same level of apprehension it did back then, the film foregrounds the ethical ramifications of impersonation and identity.’ Sounds fab! Cf. also this review. The film is released in France on January 22nd, fingers crossed we get to see it in the UK.

The Classic version of The Fortnight in September (which has just reprinted – again) was discussed on the Graham Norton podcast by Tracy Chevalier who pointed out that although nothing much happens yet you keep turning the pages. It's 'so easily written – in simple uncomplicated language' yet 'there is a surprising amount of detail.'

There was a very sweet piece about us by Christina Obolenskaya on the Literary Hub here. The picture is a nostalgic hark-back to Lamb’s Conduit Street and in particular to the time when we had an exhibition of gardening pictures.

We were so pleased to see that the new German government is composed of nearly fifty per cent women.

And here is some more good news: tentatively a few railway lines are being restored after the Beeching vandalism of 1964 when ‘more than sleepers and steel were lost’ wrote the Economist. ‘“Railwayts have a strange position in the British psyche,” says John Preston, professor of rail transport at Southampton University). ‘“A lot of rural lines disappeared that were emblematic of a way of life, for which there was a lot of nostalgia…In Britain trains become poetry, their lines not just crossing the land, but running on into the literature of Robert Louis Stevernson, John Betjeman and WH Auden.”'

More nostalgia: many streets in London are still lit by gas lights and these are hugely valued by both residents and tourists. Now Westminster council wants to replace them with LED lights because they are greener and easier. But are they? Berlin has kept its gas lights (25,000 of them) and goodness knows the Germans know something about being green. Do write and protest if you have a moment, here is the piece about it.

We were very sad about the death of bell hooks, a great feminist writer who published more than forty books on racism, politics and feminism. Her definition: ‘Feminism is the struggle to end sexist oppression.’ Short and to the point. Here is a good piece about her.

And Shropshire: we are utterly, utterly elated and thrilled that they have elected a wonderful-looking woman as their MP. So cheerful are we about this that Kristin left the computer and the envelope stuffing for ten minutes to run to Waitrose and get a half bottle of champagne. Here it is on the wrapping table, with our seemingly everlasting geraniums in the background (it must be the Bath air) and our beautiful new shutters (the Georgian shutters had long gone so we replaced them with some Victorian shutters removed from a house in London, and hope no purist ever notices).

Maybe the victory in Shropshire means the government, ‘cruel , useless and rotten from the head down’ (Jonathan Freedland) is finally, finally on the way out.

You will have read about supply problems for publishers. Shipments are delayed and paper prices have gone up 25%. We have not suffered from this so far, although it is taking ten days to get books delivered from our warehouse rather than two or three. But our printer has notified us that prices are going up hugely in the New Year: energy by 30%, transport by 40%, paper by 20%, labour costs unquantifiable, and on and on. Why do you print in Germany? you may ask. Firstly, because GGP is so efficient and kind and helpful, secondly because they do something they call dispersion binding; basically it means that our books lie flat. To us that is hugely important and we cannot possibly turn our paperbacks into the kind of books where you have to crack the spine and then the book falls to bits. 

There was a good interview with Sheila Rowbotham on Radio Three's Free Thinking here,

The charity we have donated to this Christmas is St Mungo’s.

Finally, the beautiful Christmas wreath on our door came from  Pip Floral Studio round the corner.

Nicola Beauman

8 Edgar Buildings, Bath


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