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A Book Review: The Country Housewife’s Book

Persephone Books is one the greatest bookshops I’ve ever come across. Based in London, their aim is to find and republish out-of-print books written mostly by women. They have 107 of such books to date; fiction and non-fiction; from well known names like Virginia Woolf, to not so well known names. What I love about it, is that they have simply taken these books and placed them back into the spotlight, and given everyone a chance to enjoy them again. What a fantastic idea. The books are all very well considered, with emphasis not just on the writing but on the authors too. The design of the books is simple, yet thoughtful. The dove-grey cover gives a sense of the intelligence within, and the end-papers are colourful designs, evocative the time they were written or written about. What more could an avid book reader want.

As I love social and domestic history, I was happy to see they have some books for me to covet. The first I have is The Country Housewife’s Book. It was written by Lucy H Yates. Born in 1863, she was 29 when her first signed article was published. She wrote fiction and on topics such as housekeeping and cookery. Her first book, The Profession of Cookery from a French Point of View, was published in 1894. She was also a suffragist who lectured on ‘The Financial Independence of Women’ and wrote a few books on the subject. The Country Housewife’s Book was her last published book.

Growing fruit and vegetables is one thing, but if you have a glut, how do you keep and preserve them? And what about dairy items, game meats? All is laid out in this very practical book. From bottling to preserves, from drying to pickling, various methods are described with recipes for those who want their hard-earned work to last as long as possible through the year. Each section of the book deals with specific areas, fruits, vegetables, dairy etc, and shows the different methods of preserving and storing that can be used. Written in 1934, this book demonstrates a huge knowledge of preserving for want-not-waste-not that it would be hard not to find some useful idea. In the author’s words of her book “…if, in course of time, her copy of it comes to have a spot of grease and stain of brown earth on every other page, that will be taken as the greatest compliment that could be paid to its compiler.”