Last year to celebrate my birthday I went on a little literary pilgrimage to visit some of London’s best bookshops. I’d visited many over the years but this trip was different, a devoted solo date with myself where I could browse the bookshelves guilt free. Top of the list was Persephone Books on Lamb’s Conduit Street.
Persephone Books is a publisher and bookshop that champions women writers. They publish out of print fiction and non-fiction written by women in the mid-twentieth century. Through various means they discover these forgotten gems and bring them to us all bound in the same signature dove-grey jackets. These books are perfect for when you’re after something different or are simply weary of contemporary fiction. Plus, added bonus, they look great in your collection.
As you walk along the tree lined street, you feel a real sense of charm and history. It’s proudly independent and I paused at the windows of a florist then shops that temptingly sold artisan cheese and wine. Maybe some of its allure comes from the fact that Dickens used to hang out in this area too. Nestled in amongst this magic is the famous grey shopfront of Persephone Books. This bookshop is no stranger to being photographed and it frequently tops the lists of most-beautiful bookshops. (Is it normal to fan girl over a shop? Asking for a friend.)
Inside is just as delightful as the outside. It’s small yet warm and welcoming, the books shared between shelves and being stacked on tables alongside vintage posters on the wall. Call me a romantic, but when you’re in this bookshop it really feels like the people behind it care. One of the things I really loved were the short personalised notes written under each book giving you a tiny snippet of what to expect. It’s small, thoughtful touches like this that sets them apart. Each book that’s in Persephone Books has been chosen because it’s beloved and, more than anything, a bloody good read.
Obviously the hardest bit was choosing which book was coming home with me… All the books are priced at £13 each (or £33 for 3) and there are 135 books in their collection, so plenty of choice. After browsing for a while I settled on High Wages by Dorothy Whipple. What did it for me was a quote on its accompanying bookmark which ended:
“She decided suddenly that she would ask for a rise in wages. Mrs Greenwod and Sylvia were remotely responsible for this. The more you trod on Jane, the more she wasn’t squashed.”
Decision made! I had to know more about Jane after that so I left happily with my new purchase.
If you find yourselves in London (when we can), I urge you to pay a visit to Persephone Books. It really is as special as everyone says. Luckily you can also order online here, including book subscriptions, and their website is jam-packed full of other features too.
Until next time, Persephone Books!