William - An Englishman
Persephone book No. 1 was 'written in a rage in 1918; this extraordinary novel... is a passionate assertion of the futility of war' (the Spectator). Its author had been an actress and suffragette; after 1914 she worked at the Scottish Women's Hospital at Royaumont and organised Concerts at the Front. William – an Englishman was written in a tent within sound of guns and shells; this 'stunning... terrifically good' novel (Radio 4's A Good Read) is in one sense a very personal book, animated by fury and cynicism, and in another a detached one; yet is always 'profoundly moving' (Financial Times).
In our view William – an Englishman is one of the greatest novels about war ever written: not the war of the fighting soldier or the woman waiting at home, but the war encountered by Mr and Mrs Everyman, wrenched away from their comfortable preoccupations - Socialism, Suffragettism, so gently mocked by Cicely Hamilton - and forced to be part of an almost dream-like horror (because they cannot at first believe what is happening to them). The scene when William and Griselda emerge after three idyllic weeks in a honeymoon cottage in the remote hills of the Belgian Ardennes, and encounter German brutality in a small village, is unforgettable. The book, which won the Prix Femina-Vie Heureuse in 1919, is a masterpiece, written with an immediacy and a grim realism reminiscent of an old-fashioned, flickering newsreel.
The endpaper fabric is an Omega Workshop linen, dating from 1913 when the novel begins. With its pattern of abstract shapes outlined in black 'Pamela' has an appropriate austerity; yet the soft curves evoke the Belgian hills and the blue, green and purple recall the suffragette colours.
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