Monday, 6 June 2011

Bex's Bookshelves: Making Conversation, by Christine Longford

Another gem from Persephone. I'm hooked. I chose this one because in their blurb Persephone said that it wasn't for everyone and that some of their readers hadn't liked it. Ho ho, a challenge. Well I did like it. I thought the central character, Martha's inability to "make conversation", which really means make suitable, socially conventional conversation, was hilarious and I enjoyed Longford's satirical and irreverent take on Martha's world, particularly when she heads to the city of dreaming spires.

Some quotes.

"Miss Spencer had a very wet mouth, which splashed as she spoke."

"If she married she would have to have children, which was boring. But foreign children would be more amusing than English ones; they would grow up speaking several languages, and would be a practical experiment in internationalism."

"Poor thing," said Martha, "If I were a refugee, I wouldn't brush my clothes. I should be only too glad of the excuse to let myself go."

"I hate housekeeping," she said; "I think it's a waste of time. I don't want to apply my knowledge to vegetables."

On applying for Oxford:

"It was an unpleasant thought that in this conglomeration of young women ... everyone's hand was against everyone. The more people were "good", the less chance one had. They were like animals in the jungle, as they sat gobbling their chocolate-pudding."

On Oxford:

"Wouldn't it be heavenly," said Helen, "to lead a life of luxury, instead of being shut up here with all these smelly women?"
"I don't want to be anyone's mistress," said Martha. "I'm not fond enough of physical exercise."

"Well, we've got to stay here," she explained carefully, in words of one syllable, "because we're too poor to have a good time, and we have to earn our living afterwards."


  1. Aren't Persephone's catalogs precious? And their books even more so? How many Persephone books have you read so far?
    I like the quote about foreign children being more amusing than English children ;)

  2. This is my 4th or 5th. I think their whole project is brilliant. I've got loads more on my wishlist. I wondered if it might not be fun to do a year just on Persephone books...

  3. I'm looking forward to reading it. Although I've always been a little hesitant about Persephone Books because the woman who runs it was rude to my friend Olivia once. Which is rather unfair of me as it doesn't have an impact on the books at all. And the books I've read have been good.


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