BBAW: Unexpected treasures

15 September, 2010

Book blogs are wonderful sources of books and there are many titles I have come across that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Today’s topic for BBAW is a book or genre that we wouldn’t have tried without our interest being piqued by another blog. As I’ve been reading books for many, many years, I’ve found that certain genres work for me and others not so much although I’m pretty open to trying. I normally read books that are mysteries, fantasy, historical fiction, especially those set in the medieval or interwar years and contemporary literary fiction plus a few classics and non-fiction thrown in.

Although I’m interested in women’s fiction, I haven’t really read many books in that genre (although I’m a bit ambivalent to the term ‘women’s fiction’ as a genre as it seems to denote something separate from normal fiction which I take issue with), it was only through the book blogging world that I came across the books published by Persephone Books. I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the green-spined Virago Modern Classics but Persephone Books was something new for me (even though they’ve been around for 10 years. It’s a wonderful publishing house that has re-discovered neglected works by female authors, what some would term ‘domestic fiction’ that chronicles the lives of women in a domestic setting. Persephone Reading Week is hosted in May by Paperback Reader and The B Files.

So far I’ve only completed one book Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The War time stories of Mollie Panter-Downes for this year’s Persephone Reading Week but am in the middle of Nicola Beauman’s A Very Great Profession: The Woman’s Novel 1914-1939 which I’m enjoying very slowly. Beauman is the founder of Persephone Books and A Very Great Profession is a treasure trove of titles which isn’t very healthy for my TBR pile. I would recommend anyone interested in the social history of the early twentieth century and the interwar years to give it a try.

I also came across the Women Unbound Challenge co-hosted by Aarti of Booklust, Care of Care’s Online Book Club and Eva of A Striped Armchair. All three have wonderfully well thought out blogs where they really get to grips with lots of interesting issues raised by the books they read and I recommend that you check them all out. The challenge really made me think about issues that women face and the state of feminism in the 21st century. It also made me finally take up the books that I’ve been meaning to read for years but never actually got around to, both fiction and non-fiction, such as To Live and to Write: Selections by Japanese Women Writers 1913-1938 edited by Yukiko Tanaka and Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

So although I’ve still got some way to go before completing the challenge, I’d say that both the Women Unbound Challenge and the Persephone Reading Week have made me focus a lot more on issues of feminism and the role of women in literature.

And I just have to sneak in The Samurai by Shusaku Endo which I really enjoyed and was impressed with despite me thinking it would be a rather dry and difficult read. Endo’s most famous book Silence delighted many bloggers participating in Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge and also by Tanabata who blogs at In Spring It Is The Dawn and although I didn’t manage to get my hands on it, I found The Samurai instead. Most of the Japanese books I read are contemporary or set in the early 20th century but Endo’s book about a 17th century samurai struggling with his heritage and the encroachment of Christianity is historical fiction at its best: passionate, thoughtful and full of soul.

These are just a handful of books I’ve discovered which have enriched my reading experience. What about you?

14 Responses to “BBAW: Unexpected treasures”

  1. I hadn’t read a Persephone book until Claire and Verity’s reading week either. I hadn’t even heard of the books until I started blogging, but I keep an eye out for them now 🙂

  2. Tony Says:

    Free postage please Persephone (then even I might try one ;).

  3. Helen Says:

    I only discovered Persephone Books through blogging too. I loved Good Evening, Mrs Craven, but haven’t read the Nicola Beauman book yet.

  4. Melody Says:

    Oh yes! I wasn’t aware of Persephone Books until I’ve seen so many mention of them around the blogosphere! I bought one but just haven’t got around to reading it yet. 😛

  5. amymckie Says:

    What a great idea to feature some challenges and events that have had you find great new gems. I love the Women Unbound challenge. Have yet to read a Persephone title though!

  6. I haven’t read a Persephone title as yet!

    Here is my BBAW: Unexpected Treasure post!

  7. Thanks for the plug, Sakura 😉

    There are books I would not have come across if it hadn’t been for bloggers but I couldn’t say that it extends particularly to genre… Young Adult novels, although not a genre in themselves, would probably qualify. I have always read eclectically but blogging has broadened (and yet also developed and strengthened existing likes) my tastes.

  8. Eva Says:

    I learned about Persephone through blogging too! 🙂 They’re not terribly accessible for me (since my library doesn’t stock them), but I have ILLed a couple which was neat.

    I’m so glad the Women Unbound Challenge has inspired you! I love how many reviews we have linked too: so many woman-centric choices. 😀

  9. I am having so much fun with the Women Unbound challenge! I have seen the persephone books everywhere but I haven’t read any of them (yet).

  10. Marieke Says:

    Women Unbound was the first challenge I entered and I love the way it encouraged me to look more deeply at the feminist issues in the books I was reading… and it’s fantastic to see what everyone else is reading too!

    It will take me years to catch up 🙂 And I haven’t even started on the Persephones yet!

  11. chasing bawa Says:

    It’s going to take me ages to catch up to what everyone’s been reading for the Women Unbound Challenge too! Thanks for all your comments!

  12. tanabata Says:

    I have blogging to thank for introducing me to Persephone Books as well. I’ve only read one so far but am coveting quite a lot of other ones.

    And thanks for the mention! I’m going to have to pick up The Samurai at some point. Having read Silence, I’m curious now to read something else by Endo.

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