the friday pickup: miss pettigrew lives for a day
a charming book from an even more charming bookstore. plus: happy hot toddy day.
January 12, 2013Column: deliberate polish
one of our favorite past times--right up there with popping into art galleries, flower shops and old school cinemas--is losing ourselves in bookstores.
in london (where we have three shops), persephone books is a top choice of places to spend an extended afternoon. it's a tiny space tucked in between a quint coffee shop and a delicatessen on lambs conduit street, in the very literary borough of bloomsbury. and it's not just a bookstore--it's an independent publishing house, too.
founder nicola beauman thoughtfully resurrects little-known novels, diaries, short stories, non-fiction, biography and cookery books written mostly by women and primarily dating from early to mid-twentieth century to publish in signature grey book covers. modern-day writers like adam gopnik write the prefaces. and the endpaper--the leaves of paper before the title page and after the text--are always a wallpaper or fabric dating from the year of the original publication of the book. the beauty in these little details cinches the deal for us, every time.
in the case of miss pettigrew lives for a day, the endpaper is an elegant 1938 furnishing linen by marion dorn. winifred watson's novel (which may sound familiar as it was also a film, though loosely based it) is in many ways a society cinderella story, spiked with fine-grain humor: an out-of-work, middle-aged governess in '30s london (miss pettigrew) gets to experience first-hand the ease of sophisticated life purely by accident. in turn, she blossoms into a social swan. (ps: the fashion references alone will entice you to read from cover to cover.)