Just look what I found in the Oxfam shop! This…
And this… I do love book hunting, especially when I strike literary gold!
I’ve been looking out for a copy of Nicola Beauman’s A Very Great Professionfor quite some time, so when I spotted this 1983 Virago edition how could I resist? Basically, it’s a study of middle-class women between the wars, as portrayed in novels of the time. By and large the authors featured are middle-class women, writing about the world they knew. Many have been forgotten for decades, while others have undergone something of a resurgence in recent years.
Beauman, of course, went on to found Persephone Books, which now publishes her book, but it was the Virago edition I wanted. There’s something immensely satisfying about those dark green spines…
I’m really looking forward to reading this. I think it’s a fascinating subject, and from a quick glance it seems that the seeds of the Persephone ethos are there in this book.
The women in the novels explored by Beauman in A Very Great Profession may feel frustrated and constrained by the narrowness of their lives, but they’re a world away from those created by Jean Rhys. Her heroines (if one can call them that) always seem to be cast adrift, buffeted by fate, unable to summon the will or the energy to change things.
She’s not what I would call a happy writer, and I’m not sure her work is enjoyable in the conventional sense – her stories are bleak, and there seem to be no happy endings, but I love the way she writes, and I’ve been hunting for some of her short stories for ages and ages and ages, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to find Tigers are Better-Looking. It contains eight short stories first published in 1939, as well as a selection from a collection originally issued in 1927 as The Left Bank, and I can’t wait to start reading – only I have several books on the go at the moment. I would love to be able to read one book at a time.