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Midsummer Night in the Workhouse

by Diana Athill
Persephone book no:

91 92 93

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A Well Full of Leaves
Regular price £14.00
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ISBN 9781903155851

Midsummer Night in the Workhouse contains a selection of short stories mostly written in the late 1950s. Some are set in England and describe incidents from Diana Athill's girlhood; one or two describe holidays abroad; almost all are seen from the woman's point of view. 'In this terrific collection female characters are sexually adventurous, introspective and enjoy a drink or three,' wrote the Daily Mail. 'A cheating wife, back with her boring husband, is wracked with agonising love for the unavailable partner of her brief fling; a writer seeks inspiration at a writers' retreat whilst avoiding the group seducer.' First published in America in 1962, the stories, which have never been re-published before, complement both Athill's memoirs (Instead of a Letter, Stet) and letters (Instead of a Book).

Also available as a Persephone Audiobook read by the author.


A 1970s furnishing fabric which the author bought as curtains for her flat in North London.

Picture Caption

'Hiking' 1936 by James Walker Tucker (Laing Art Gallery/PCF).

Read What Readers Say

Paris Review

Funny, engaging and unexpected.

Matthew Sweet, 'BBC Radio 3

Extremely good ... written with brilliant precision and chilling honesty.

The Times

They reveal the same very mischievous and essentially humane sensibility that will be familiar to readers of Diana Athill's memoirs. But their value goes far beyond their potential biographical contribution. In her capacity to calmly and cheerfully record deep sadness, she ranks among the best writers of late twentieth century short stories.

Katie Law, ‘Evening Standard’

The stories in ‘Midsummer Night in the Workhouse’ describe, in unsentimental though often touching prose, young women, sometimes married, sometimes not, anticipating, enjoying, or just missing out on brief sexual encounters with men, sometimes married, sometimes not. Diana Athill writes in the preface that seeing her stories republished reminds her of how it felt to discover she could write and how it changed her life profoundly. She hopes they will give pleasure. They do, both in their own right and as a coda to a remarkable woman’s life

Categories: Short Stories

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