The Year In Books ~ The New House by Lettice Cooper

Monday, 8 December 2014



I thought Nella Last's War would be a good choice for my December read as it was dramatised by Victoria Wood as Housewife, 49 and housewife, 49 is a very apt description of myself this December as I am now 49 and a housewife. But I have read it several times and I am trying to read new things for The Year in Books. I do recommend it though, especially if you are interested in how women managed to keep a household going in the face of rationing and shortages not to mention great emotional upheaval. Nella was incredibly resourceful and could make a tasty meal out of almost nothing. What a great blogger she would have made.

The book I have chosen is a Persephone publication, The New House by Lettice Cooper. I was lucky enough to be given a six month subscription to Persephone Books by my generous parents and this is the first instalment which arrived a few days before my birthday wrapped in pink tissue and tied with grey ribbon. What a treat! The New House, written in 1936 describes one day in the lives of a family as they move from a large house with grounds to a new, smaller house. I haven't got very far with it yet but so far, so good. I also have Because of the Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple waiting to be read which I know I will enjoy.

I can't remember all six of the books I have chosen and I don't want to check as I'm looking forward to being surprised when they arrive. I do remember that one is Housebound by Winifred Peck and one is Hostages to Fortune by Elizabeth Cambridge. I have gone for domestic books, books which like Nella Last's War deal with how women go about running their homes under varying circumstances. Persephone excel in finding such books to republish. I am sure if it weren't already in print then Nella Last would be an admirable addition to Persephone's list. The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield is perhaps the best example of this genre, a book I must reread soon.



Meanwhile in the garden we have frosty quince leaves in abundance.

31 comments:

  1. I read The New House some months ago. I saw it in a charity shop and though I ignored it at first, it was still there later so I got it. I was a bit reluctant to be honest. However, I really did enjoy it, so much so that I got another from the same author from Amazon, which I am saving until Christmas. What a wonderful gift to have a subscription to Persephone! Their prices stop me reading as many as I would like. I buy the occasional one however, and sometimes they turn up second hand or I find the odd one in the library. I do enjoy a Dorothy Whipple! I found one of hers in an old penguin version, falling to pieces but readable, which is all I care about. I love to get in guaranteed nice reading for Christmas as I absolutely know there is nothing I care for on the TV. Which is a shame because that's the one time of the year I would really like to. Hope you enjoy the book!

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    1. I have just bought the Christmas edition of the Radio Times and there is indeed nothing to watch.

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  2. You are right. Nella Last would have made a superb blogger - and if she had had some supportive feedback from all of her scribblings, perhaps she would have felt more appreciated!

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  3. You have such a knack for finding books I'd like to read. The 49hood is a recent development, right?

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    1. As of last Monday.

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    2. Happy birthday, belatedly! I hope someone made you a cake.

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  4. I visited the Persephone bookstore recently in London and thought it was delightful and cosy..... My husband bought me one of the books for my birthday, "miss Pettygrew lives for a day" and they told him that it is their most popular book.... I haven't started it yet but I have plans for it..... Enjoy your reading, Sue! I am amazed that people would give these books to the charity shop..... Pati xx

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  5. I wanted to call SmallerBean Lettice but was told 'no' in no uncertain terms...
    How exciting to have surprise books plopping onto your doormat. A gorgeous present. Ax

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  6. Oh yes, Persephone books, I love everything about them - the elegant jacket design, the pretty free bookmark, the carefully chosen end papers...gorgeous, all of it. I have a bad habit of buying their books and then not reading them. I have four unread Persephones on the bookcase right now, but happily one of them is The Homemaker which I am pleased to see you liked a lot. Maybe next year I'll actually make time to read some of them! x

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  7. Thank you so much for introducing me to Persephone Books, over the years. They are now my absolute favourite. My husband now buys me the paperback versions as gifts. But, oh my, what a treat it would be to have surprise hardcover books showing up in the mail!

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    1. They're all paperbacks Kari, I'm not aware that any are hardbacks, and yes it is a treat of the finest order.

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  8. I read the Nella Last books earlier this year and when they ended I felt like I'd lost a friend. The books you have chosen sound right up my street. I'll be having a look at them later this week. We have frosty leaves in our garden too. xx

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  9. Persephone Books are a treat. In an age of ebooks and audio books its so gratifying to hold one of these so well thought out in design. I have my favorites and I still have a couple on the shelf to look forward to reading this winter.

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  10. Very frosty here too. Picked up 3 new Persephones the weekend before last--really looking forward to starting Because of the Lockwoods as I've loved every Dorothy Whipple I've read so far. Now adding Nella Last to my reading list as well.

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  11. Years ago, I spent a couple of days in the MO archive immersed in Nella Last and came away thinking that although initially I was charmed by her, I'd have ended up by crossing the road when I saw her coming.
    Some of my favourite Persephones are non-domestic. Journey into the Whirlwind is fascinating and there's a South African one, the name of which escapes me right for the moment, but it's as good as a thriller. By Hilda Bernstein, that's just popped into my head. But depends what you're in the mood for. Dorothy Whipple has just got me through a very trying week!

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  12. Dear Sue,

    Forgive my ignorance and please enlighten me - what are Persephone books. I count myself an avid reader of eclectic tastes but I am obviously missing something here - help!

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    1. Curvywitch they are a small publishing house who specialise in printing forgotten books from mainly women writers of mainly the first half of the 20th century. Their books all come in distinctive grey covers. Their website expalins all.

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    2. Thank you - how wonderful to have such an easy way to ask someone about these things. I have perused the website and have obviously been missing something BIG. I think some catching up is due. Thanks for pointing the way and curing my ignorance - the postman on the other hand may not be so happy. :-)

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  13. What a lovely present .
    With a lot of their titles , I love the way distance lends enchantment to what was often a rather uncomfortable era . The smell of wet wool , kippers , pippy jam and slippery linen sheets .
    Perfect books to read now , in centrally heated comfort !

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  14. It is lovely when a Persephone book turns up in pink tissue and grey ribon, isn't it?

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  15. Hi Sue, I read about Persephone books some time ago - and it was probably on your blog! I must galvanise myself and check them out, the ones you mention sound just the kind of thing I'd enjoy. So many books, so many tunes, so much food ...... have I the time to squeeze it all in??

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  16. ok... my first comment vanished... don't know where it's gone so I'll say it again... Should have pointed the husband towards Persephone books. What an oversight! Doh.

    I'm making my way through the Booker Prize shortlist. two down. excellent. This one, 'J' by Howard Jacobson is a tad... weird. Leaves me with a knotted stomach and feeling of doom every night...

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  17. A subscription to Persephone Books is something I would love. The subject matter of their publications sounds right up my street: domesticity, social history...
    Until then, I have to make do with the Biannually.
    I hope you enjoy your winter reading.
    Sarah.

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  18. They do look gorgeous but I'm not sure whether I would be tempted simply to admire the packaging... enjoy your reading.

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  19. Anonymous10:37 pm GMT

    Oh Sue I absolutely loved The New House, it is one of my favourite books of all times. There are so many perceptions that resonant with me. I also really liked The Homemaker and Hostages to Fortune. Have you read The Family Roundabout and Princes in the Land? They also on a similar domestic vain. I did spot in the Radio Times that another Persephone book is book at bedtime on R4 during the 1st week. It is The Diary of a Provincial Lady, I haven't read it but have seen very good reviews. Have a great Christmas. Alisa

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    1. I've read Family Roundabout and loved it but not Princes in the Land yet. Diary of a Provincial Lady is excellent, thanks for alerting me to its broadcast. It was on Woman's Hour years ago read beautifully by Imelda Staunton.

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  20. Anonymous9:50 pm GMT

    Oh perhaps it is the same recording. I will look forward to that one. Thanks

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  21. Thanks so much for this post! I am interested in the home front during the war, & Nella Last sounds like exactly my kind of book. I've already sent away for a copy.
    Also, the photo of the book with the bookmark gave me an idea of what to do with all my offcuts of handmade paper (from bookbinding)--make bookmarks for books I give to friends. This is why I read your blog--it's always full of good ideas. Of course the recipes are pretty good, too . . . I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

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  22. I just wrote a comment and it seems to have disappeared, so please forgive me if two comments eventually appear. Happy birthday Sue! I'm turning 49 too, on December 24, and I can't quite get to grips with it really. It seems to have come along so fast! And those Persephone books... such wonderful designs. A friend gave me a catalogue of theirs a few years ago, and I would have bought all of them if I could!

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  23. Love the Nella Last books (there are several) and thought the first was very well done by Victoria Wood.
    Persephone books are lovely and I have several - must investigate the subscription option ;o I really like the domestic ones, too, and will definitely have a look at this New House one, as I'm sure I'd enjoy it.

    I just turned 50 and have decided the transition is painless. But I did think of Nella at 49 and felt extremely privileged in so many ways in comparison. Food for thought. Sometimes I wish some aspects of life were still so simple, though I realise it was a hard life back then, of course. My granny is 98 and I have huge respect for the wives who went through those times; she is a great role model and has remained incredibly cheerful.

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