The Iron Queen’s Softer Side

As inspiration for my impending book club selection, Jessica sent out a link a few weeks back to a small publishing shop famed for producing beautiful, custom-designed editions from authors I’ve mostly never heard of.

Started in 1999 by Nicole Beauman, London-based Persephone Books helps readers rediscover early 20th-century novels, short stories & diaries from women writers that have been otherwise neglected and ignored over time.

A self-defined feminist press, Persephone presents a more accessible & softer side of feminism with its releases, all aimed at a modern women smart enough to understand the challenges inherent in raising a family, having a career and embracing the conflicted independence that results.

I was actually most excited to see Virgina Woolf’s husband Leonard among the published authors, whom I’d forgotten was a pretty accomplished writer and publisher in his own right. Originally released in 1913, his semi-autobiographical work, The Wise Virgins, is about a man who must choose between the dull but family-approved girl next door and one of the artistically-inclined Lawrence sisters, modeled after Virginia herself.

Apparently the publication threw Woolf’s family, painted rather unflatteringly, into an absolute tizzy, and Virginia reportedly had her worst (of many) nervous breakdowns after reading it. Drama! I just placed my order.

For the literary aesthetes, Persephone also treats each release as a mini work of art, with unique endpapers carefully selected to fit a book’s theme or mood. Check out the version headed my way, designed by Virginia Woolf’s sister Vanessa Bell. Quite the family affair. Psyched!