Bloomsbury publishing’s ‘Bloomsbury Group’ has intrigued me from the off. There has been such a boom in reprinting old titles – something that I buy into entirely, be the books unjustly neglected classics or pure nostalgia. In fairness I think most of them fall somewhere between the two, although it’s impossible to fault Virago, Persephone, Hesperus et al in terms of quality even where there is an element of nostalgia involved.
I have a definite preference for books which have proved their worth, actually I’ll rephrase that – I have a definite preference for writers who have proved their worth and stood the test of time. Some of the observations in ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ have made me think a bit more about why I pick books like this, and made me feel a lot happier about it. Of all the books I keep there are only an armful or two by contemporary (or at least late 20th Century) writers. There are armfuls more that I’ve read, enjoyed and disposed of - because they seem so disposable - and who knows perhaps in 30 years Dan Brown will read like Dornford Yates and I’ll enjoy the period detail.
What Bloomsbury did which seems subtly different to other publisher’s approaches (and is surely a touch of marketing genius) is to approach book bloggers for title suggestions thereby ensuring a certain amount of interest from the off. I hope it works for them because they turned to some brilliant readers and any publisher who prints ‘The Bronte’s Went to Woolworths’ would have my whole hearted approval whatever they went on to do.
Out of the four titles I didn’t already know D. E Stevenson’s ‘Mrs Tim of the Regiment’ is the one I’ve been keenest to read. I enjoyed ‘Miss Buncle’s Book’ when Persephone bought it out and hoped for more like it. I found a copy of 'Amberwell' earlier this year, and although I enjoyed it wasn’t really smitten. I know Elaine at Randomjottings had similar experiences with other titles, so it’s very gratifying to have an excellent D. E. Stevenson presented for my reading pleasure with such a flourish and quality guaranteed (after all I’m a busy woman again).
When I first opened Mrs Tim I was afraid from the format it was going to be ‘Diary of a Provincial Lady’ without Delafield’s magic touch, but further acquaintance with Mrs Tim reveals her to be a very different woman. She’s much more ordinary, probably more domestically able, and the dynamic with her husband is somehow warmer – they feel more like equals, more romantically involved, more definitely on the same side. I think the provincial lady would like Mrs Tim, and I can’t imagine anyone who’s fond of either not liking the other but at the end of the day I find it easier to imagine a conversation with Mrs Tim, I suspect army wives haven’t changed as much as provincial lady’s have.