You love Persephone Books, is your taste exactly the same as Nicola Beauman’s?

January 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

In my first week of Law at Trinity College Dublin, I bumped into a classmate of mine, outside the Buttery. We were both lost. That was the start of a long and valued friendship. Amongst the many things we have in common, is a love of reading. But our tastes are not always the same.

We really liked Suite Française; we gave up on The God of Small Things; she cried over Brooklyn and I grew impatient with it; she likes Graham Greene, but I do not.

Can anyone’s taste be exactly like another’s? I read reviews of books I like, hoping to find a reviewer who will lead me to some undiscovered author. But sooner or later, as I look through the reviews, something happens: I get offended. Perhaps he states that a book I liked was dull and badly written. Disappointed, even dismayed, I part company with this reviewer. And I am renewed in my conviction that no one’s taste coincides completely with mine or with anyone else’s.

Many people, it seems, love Persephone Books. Have they read them all? Have they read just some and loved them, and believe they will go on to love the rest? To love Persephone Books is to love Nicola Beauman’s taste in books, in fact to have exactly the same taste as she does.

You can bring a book to Nicola Beauman’s attention but she will not publish that book unless she likes it. So take away your Margery Sharps, your Barbara Pyms, and your Mary Webbs: Nicola Beauman won’t have any of them.

I have read about 40 of Nicola Beauman’s choices, not all under her imprint. There was only one Persephone book that I did not read finish, Mariana, and a few (Consequences, Bricks and Mortar, and Princes in the Land) which I, had I been Nicola Beaumann, would not have reissued. However, if publishing the books just mentioned was a condition of publishing, The Home-Maker, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, The Fortnight in September, Every Eye, The Far Cry, The Blank Wall, Reuben Sachs, and all the Whipple novels, then I could live with that.

Nicola Beauman likes books that I don’t; I like books that she doesn’t: Barbara Pym’s earlier work & Quartet in Autumn for one. I would be very surprised if it were otherwise.


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