Yes, We Have No Oranges (Nor Bananas)…

Last year author Juliet Greenwood (We That Are left, Honno Press)) wrote a guest blog post on the topic of producing and preparing food for the Home Front during the First World War. In her novel, the main protagonist, Elin goes back to her mother’s old recipe book to help her produce nutritious recipes for wartime. Recipes from the period were reproduced at the end of the book, some of which you can find on Juliet’s guest post. I have gradually tried out Juliet’s recipes, most recently the seed cake, which I have blogged about over on Curiously Creatively this week. It was most delicious!

Few Eggs and No Oranges

Reprinted edition

As Juliet pointed out at the time, rationing only came about towards the end of World War I, and lessons learned from this conflict influenced rationing decisions in the Second World War. I was reminded of this when I was browsing recently in Hodges Figgis and spotted a reprint of a Second World War diary. Few Oranges and No Eggs (Persephone, 1991, 2010) was the work of Birmingham born Vere Hodgson (1901-1979) who began work in London in 1935 and stayed there throughout the war. She worked for the Greater World Christian Spiritualist Association in a welfare role and helped to produce the association’s newspaper. The office was in a house (named The Sanctuary) in Lansdowne Road and Vere lived nearby in Ladbrooke Road, though she often spent the nights of The Blitz at The Sanctuary taking a turn on fire watch duty. Although the diary entries continue until VE Day, I have just quoted from the early part of the book to give you some idea of Vere’s life. The diary actually began life as letters sent around to family members and then posted out to a cousin in Rhodesia. Only one batch of letters ever got lost en route. Not bad for a war-time postal service!

As the book’s title suggests, one of the major preoccupations of the author was obtaining food during the lean years of the war. On 9th July 1940, Vere Hodgson was recording that “We are to have six ounces of butter cum margarine, and two ounces of cooking fat” and on 16th July she was writing of the shortage of eggs in London, declaring, “I shall have to switch over to baked beans”.   Rationing restrictions changed over the years, but began in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar. Later, several other food products were added to the rationed list and supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables were limited, though not rationed. Tinned products were un-rationed but you needed points to buy the food. The chart I have included (taken from Wikipedia) will give some idea of the range of weekly rationing, from lowest to highest. Not on the chart are eggs (one per week) and milk (3 pints per week). There were increased milk rations for children, pregnant women and invalids and oranges, when available were usually only for children or pregnant women.

World War II Rations

Ration Chart

Vere’s observations marked the daily difficulties of obtaining scarce supplies and the alteration in the rations. Despite fruit not being rationed, imported fruits such as bananas and oranges were obviously hard to come by at all. Prices of homegrown produce varied a great deal as this entry from February 1941 shows, “Bought a pound of apples yesterday for one shilling…what a price. No oranges at all, at all. Very annoying.”  Later that month she notes that the cheese rationing will probably amount to a one inch cube per week. At that point, it was immaterial as none was available in her area anyway.

One of the effects of rationing and shortages appeared to be that people craved that which they would not ordinarily have eaten, such as in this case, onions. “Mr Booker was saying that though he hates onions, when once more we can get them he will sit down and really enjoy one. I think we shall go in for onion binges when the war is over”. (16th February 1941) I have a vision of Vere tucking into endless plates of fried onions after the war. In many entries such as this one, Vere displays that sense of humour and stoicism that enabled many people to carry on despite the shortages. I will just finish with this excerpt from 22nd February 1941, which details the proceeds of a shopping expedition:

Managed to get a few eating apples yesterday to my great joy. I treated myself – they are one shilling and one penny per pound. I carried them home as if they were the Crown Jewels. Also had some luck over cheese. Went for my bacon ration and while cutting it had a word with the man about the Cubic Inch of Cheese. He got rid of the other customers and then whispered, ‘Wait a mo’.’ I found half a pound of cheese being thrust into my bag with great secrecy and speed!

Then going to the Dairy for my butter ration I was given four eggs and a quarter of cheese! Had no compunction in taking it, for I went straight to my Mercury Cafe and gave it to them….they had said they did not think they could open the next day as they had no meat and only a morsel of cheese. I could not resist, when I got in, cutting off a hunk of my piece and eating it there and then. I always sympathised with Ben Gunn when he dreamed of toasted cheese on that desert island.

If you’ve never come across this diary, I recommend it for the day-to-day picture of war-time life. The experiences are particular to one educated, middle class woman but it does give you a vivid picture of what life must have like for Londoners and Brummies in all walks of life as they coped with the destruction and privation on the Home Front. This is one book that I am sure I will dip into again and again. Vere Hodgson’s voice is lively and compassionate; her conscientious recording of all that happens draws the reader into her world.

I have also written a piece for Headstuff if you would like to read it too: http://www.headstuff.org/2015/05/exploring-a-wartime-diarist-vere-hodgson/

Until next time!

Landing Author: Juliet Greenwood on WWI Food

As I promised here is Juliet Greenwood’s guest post. Picking up on my interest in the theme of growing and preparing nutritious food during the war, I asked Juliet to talk about this aspect of  We That Are Left (Honno Press) and her background research. At the end of the post I’ve added the recipes that Juliet sent me. If you buy a copy of the book you will find a few more authentic recipes to try for yourselves.

The Role of Food in World War I

When I was first thinking of writing about the First World War, I knew I wanted to write about the lives of civilians, and especially the women, who moved out from being simply wives and mothers to take over the roles of the missing men at home, as well as working on the front line as ambulance drivers and nurses.

Among the many roles of women at home was ensuring that there was enough food at home for the population to both survive and be strong enough to continue, as well as sending supplies to the soldiers at the front. Like today, much of Britain’s food was imported, and fashionable and convenient new foods, like tinned fruit, had begun to replace the traditional ways of cooking.

There was no rationing in WWI until the very end of the war, but many staples immediately became expensive as there was panic buying, and there were shortages too. This was a new kind of war, not fought in countries far away, like South Africa, but one into which the civilians were drawn as well (it was also the first time bombing was experienced from both Zeppelins and bi-planes). This war on home soil was something that hadn’t happened In Britain since the Civil War in the 17th Century, and the response seems to have been quite chaotic at first, but it was the lessons learnt that led to the efficient rationing systems of the Second World War.

I did much of my research in the online British Newspaper Archive, looking at newspapers of the time. It’s noticeable that from 1916 onwards there is a real obsession with food. Articles appear about allotments, along with means of preserving with the little sugar available – and there are arguments too about where allotments should be allowed by disgruntled residents who clearly think it lowers the tone of the neighbourhood!

It wasn’t just food, but medicines too. So women, especially those in the countryside returned to the old ways of their grandmothers. They grew and preserved as much as they could and foraged for things like blackberries and rosehips, which are an excellent source of vitamin C and wonderful home remedies for coughs and colds. As well as women working the land, schoolchildren were drafted in to help, growing food wherever there was space.

Rosehip Syrup

Full of vitamin C…

The upper classes and the rich didn’t escape, either. The army of servants needed to run a Downton-style house were gone. Meals became simpler. Even restaurants limited the number of courses as part of the war effort. Before the war vegetarianism was a sign of being a Fabian and a serious crank, like the playwright George Bernard Shaw. It’s a sign of how things changed that the recipes in the newspapers begin focusing on meatless meals and how to make delicious things from vegetables. As a vegetarian I loved trying out the Cornish Lady’s Meatless Meal, which was delicious!

For Elin, the heroine of We That Are Left, learning to run the family estate in Cornwall and particularly the kitchen garden, leads to her developing her passion for baking and creating recipes from the ingredients available. It’s something that takes her to places she could never have imagined – and that includes racing through France in a beaten up ambulance, braving bombs and enemy soldiers to save the lives of both strangers and those she loves.

In researching the recipes of The Great War I found that, as for Elin, the changing role of food reflected a deeper change in a society that would never be the same again. On the one hand, the opulence of the Edwardian upper classes had gone. On the other, recruiters for the army were shocked at facing the reality of the appalling state of health of the poor in such a prosperous country. And women could never be quite seen again as the fragile little woman standing in the shadow of her husband and incapable of being a citizen in her own right.

And here are the recipes…

WWI Seed Cake  WWI Seed Cake

Original version:

2½lb Flour

2lb Refined Sugar

12ozs Caraway Seeds

2lbs Butter or Margarine

4 teaspoons Orange Flower Water

10 Eggs

½lb Candied Peel

 

Modern (scaled down!) version

8oz     230g   Butter or Margarine

8oz     230g   Sugar

2oz   60g     Caraway or Poppy Seeds

8oz     230g   SR Flour

2oz      60g     Candied Peel

Rind and juice of 1 Orange

Rind and juice of 1 Lemon

3 Eggs

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time with flour alternately, then add juice of one orange, caraway/poppy seeds, candied peel. Spoon into a greased 7inch/ 18cm tin and bake in oven at 180 degrees (160 for fan assisted)/ Gas Mark 4 for one hour or until a knife comes out clean. When cool cover with butter icing (Vanilla or lemon both worth well).

This is one that sounds really tasty (and we are growing leeks in the garden!)

A ‘Meatless Meal’

Based on a 1918 newspaper recipe but on more manageable lines and with the addition of cheese to improve tastiness. Serves 2 or 4 depending on how hungry you are (but be warned, it is delicious!). Adjust the amounts (especially the cheese) to your own taste.

 Chop three leeks. Fry gently in butter until soft. Add a clove of garlic and ten chopped mushrooms (add more if you like mushrooms).

In a saucepan melt two tablespoons of butter, slowly add one tablespoon of floor and stir for one minute. Then add approximately ½ pint (284 ml) milk slowly until you reach a consistency of double cream. Add approximately 4oz (113) grated cheese. Stir in leek and mushroom mix. Pour over 2 – 4 large pieces of toast. Place in a fireproof dish, scatter grated cheese on top and place under a hot grill until golden brown. Serve hot.

………………………………..

Many thanks to Juliet for kindly contributing to The Landing Authors posts. If you want to know more about her work and inspirations, then here are all of the links you need:

Website:     http://www.julietgreenwood.co.uk/We that are left

Blog:            http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/

Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/juliet.greenwood

Twitter:      https://twitter.com/julietgreenwood

If you want to check out other books published by Honno Press:

 http://www.honno.co.uk/index.php

I’d love to know about what World War I fiction you’ve read and would recommend. Do drop me a line… 

 

 

 

Introducing Landing Author Juliet Greenwood

As there are still plenty of summer days left for reading (albeit that you might be reading in mac and wellingtons) I thought I would feature one of my recent library reads which I flew through recently. We That are Left by Juliet Greenwood (Honno Press 2014) is set  during the First World War, which is a very topical subject just at the moment. The action moves between Cornwall, Anglesey and France as the war unfolds and opens at Elin Helstone’s  Cornish home Hiram Hall just before the outbreak of hostilities:We that are left

 

Elin lives a luxurious but lonely life at Hiram Hall. Her husband Hugo loves her but he has never recovered from the Boer War. Now another war threatens to destroy everything she knows.

With Hugo at the front, and her cousin Alice and friend Mouse working for the war effort, Elin has to learn to run the estate in Cornwall, growing much-needed food, sharing her mother’s recipes and making new friends – and enemies. But when Mouse is in danger, Elin must face up to the horrors in France herself.
 And when the Great War is finally over, Elin’s battles prove to have only just begun.

 

I have read many novels from this period, but ever since reading Not So Quiet by Helen Zennor Smith some years ago, I’ve tried to  read more about women’s role during the great conflict. Juliet Greenwood’s novel combines love (as opposed to romance) with the hard realities of war for both soldiers and civilians, against a background of women’s wartime activity. Whether it’s growing food, driving ambulances or running a hospital and foraging for medical supplies, Greenwood’s women step up and are counted. It was a time when women were challenging social roles and agitating for the vote, and it was ironic that it took a war for women to have the opportunity prove what they could do. It is also worth pointing out that after the war many women who served in the war effort would have had just the same difficulties as the men in returning to peace time after all that they had seen and endured.

I haven’t hosted a Landing Author for a while, so I thought I would ask Juliet Greenwood if she would be kind enough to write a guest post for The Landing. After seeing a cookery demonstration recently at TCD’ s World War I day of talks and events, I decided that it would be interesting to focus on food as a post topic. At the cookery demonstration, Domini Kemp and Catherine Cleary from RTE’s History on a Plate recreated some recipes from the Ireland of that period. In Juliet’s novel, Elin has her Welsh mother’s collection of tried and tested recipes which she puts to good to good use when ingredients are scarce. A nice feature of We that are left is that Juliet has included some of the recipes that she mentions in the story. I’m planning to try out some of them myself and will be posting the results on Curiously Creatively in due course.

I’ll be posting up Juliet’s guest post, complete with recipes to tempt you into the kitchen, in a couple of days so do look out for it. Juliet Greenwood is the second Honno Press author that I’ve hosted here, the first being Jacqueline Jacques so check out her guest posts too if you have the time.

In the meantime, here’s a little information about Juliet Greenwood if you haven’t read her books before:

Juliet Greenwood

At Blist’s Hill Victorian Town

 

Juliet lives in a traditional quarryman’s cottage between the mountains of Snowdonia and the island of Anglesey. She has a large garden and attempts to grow as much as she is able and experiment with the results. When not writing Juliet works collecting oral history, before such stories are lost forever.

‘We That are Left’ is her second Book for Honno Press. Her first, ‘Eden’s Garden’ was a finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’ 2014. Both books were Kindle top 5 best sellers in June and July 2014.

Juliet also writes serials and stories for magazines as ‘Heather Pardoe’.

 

Juliet’s Media Links:

We That Are Left Honno Press, 2014

The Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month, March 2014

The National Museum of Wales Book of the Month, March 2014

Waterstones Wales Book of the Month March, 2014 http://www.amazon.co.uk/That-Are-Left-Juliet-Greenwood/dp/190678499X

Eden’s Garden Honno Press, 2012

Finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’, May 2014

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Edens-Garden-Juliet-Greenwood/dp/1906784353

 

Website:     http://www.julietgreenwood.co.uk/

Blog:            http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/

Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/juliet.greenwood

Twitter:      https://twitter.com/julietgreenwood

I hope all of that has whetted your appetite before Juliet Greenwood’s guest post on writing about women and food in the First World War!

 

 

Landing Author: Jacqueline Jacques (Part II)

Head and shoulders portrait of Jacqueline Jacques

Jacqueline Jacques

I hope you enjoyed the first part of the Q and A with writer Jacqueline Jacques, published here yesterday. Follow the link to Part I if you missed it and if you also missed my original introduction of Jacqueline’s historical crime novel on Thursday, then click over to that first to catch up with us! I am working on a piece about the book (which I enjoyed very much) at the moment. I really liked the idea of making the main character an artist who, through his role sketching crime suspects, becomes involved in the events which follow. And of course, Walthamstow was a fascinating character in its own right, at the heart of the novel and all the action.

And now, to the second half of my email interview with Jacqueline…

When you decided to go ‘darker’, did you have any idea in which direction it would take your work?  Did the difficult subjects you chose to deal with in Mary Quinn’s life affect you as you worked?

book cover of Victorian street scene

Colours of Corruption

I’ve tried the paranormal and outgrown it.  Horror wasn’t for me, so I guessed that my next novel would probably be crime fiction of some sort. I didn’t want to be bogged down in police procedurals, clues, clever deductions and red herrings, so I set an artist on a voyage of discovery.  He was the one to find out how ordinary, law-abiding people could become the victims of unscrupulous predators.  I hadn’t, at that point, read any crime fiction apart from Stef Penney’s The Tenderness of Wolves, so I fell back on my own studies in sociology, on various news stories, on a story structure recommended by the crime writer, Michelle Spring, and on my imagination.  Eventually, after the third or fourth draft I knew exactly where I was going.  And yes, I was very moved by Mary’s suffering, what she was forced to do to survive. I wanted to make life easier for her, but I couldn’t.  It was horrible but it happened and I had to record it.

I read on your website that you used to be a teacher.  I wondered if you would ever be inspired to write novels for children as other former teachers, such as Roddy Doyle have done.

Possibly, if time allows, but I have a number of adult novels I should like to write first.
I went to a Kate Atkinson interview recently, in which she was asked what minor character in her fiction she would like to revisit and why?  May I ask you the same question?

I’d be interested to see how little Clara grows up, given the trauma I’ve put the poor child through (I feel a little responsible for her.)  I suppose I might get the chance if I write more books about Archie Price.

Just to close with, can I ask you why you decided to move from the short story form to the novel and will you perhaps go back some day?

I find I need the longer form of story-structure in order to explore and develop my characters and plot.  Short stories cannot always contain all I need to say.  If I returned to short-story writing it would be purely as an exercise, I think, to test myself against a word count or the discipline of making a story believable in a few words. I once heard Beryl Bainbridge say, ‘Why waste characters and a good plot on a short story when you can write a book?’

Many thanks to Jacqueline for taking the time to answer my questions about her work. As I mentioned yesterday, she is in the running for the fiction award in the People’s Book Prize 2013 in which the voting is open until 20th May. As well as being a successful writer, Jacqueline is also an artist and you can check out her website for more information on her work. You could also look up her author page on Honno Press, for earlier novels such as her science fiction novel Skin Deep (2004).

cover showing half of a woman's face

Skin Deep, Honno Press, 2004

 

Thanks for reading the Jacqueline Jacques interview and don’t forget to drop a line in the box if you have any comments or suggestions for future posts.

Landing Author: Jacqueline Jacques (Part I)

As I promised on Thursday, here are the results of an email interview that I conducted with author Jacqueline Jacques about her new novel, The Colours of Corruption. I have actually divided Jacqueline’s Q and A into two sections as it is quite a long piece and I will post Part II up tomorrow. Since reading the book and working on the questions, I have learnt that The Colours of Corruption has been put forward by Honno Press for inclusion in the People’s Book Prize 2013. There is still time to cast your vote as the polls close on 20th May (I have already cast mine!).

book cover of Victorian street scene

Colours of Corruption

Art plays a large part in The Colours of Corruption.  Can you start by telling us a little about why you decided to make a painter your protagonist?

 I wanted to write a crime novel from the point of view of someone who was neither criminal nor victim, policeman nor private detective.  I don’t know enough about police procedurals to write confidently about them, but I do know a bit about painting and painters.  Listening to Woman’s Hour one day I heard Lois Gibson talking about her work as a forensic artist, drawing the perpetrators of crime from their victims’ descriptions.  I researched further and was astonished at how large a part such artists play, even today, in the solution of crime.  Archie Price, with his extraordinary gift for almost reading a witness’s mind, would have been invaluable to the police, at a time when photography was in its infancy.  Passionate about his painting, he is, at the same time quite naive about the real world and unprepared for the vicious criminals he comes up against.  He has all-too-human frailties, is weak, is charming.  An unreliable hero.  Perfect.

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Brummie, but I still love reading fiction based on London’s many layered past. You said on your blog that Walthamstow features in most of your fiction.  Can you tell us what it is in the place that keeps pulling you back to it in your work?

As a child I felt that it was the best place on earth to grow up in.  It had (still has) an incredible bustle of creativity about it. Easy access to the forest gave me trees to climb, paths to ramble, changing seasonal moods to fire my imagination. There was the wonderful High Street market to explore, the library to feed my soul, the Town Hall grounds to play in, the marshes, the river, Lloyd Park for swings and roundabouts, and London, only half an hour away by train. Why Walthamstow? It was my home and I loved it.

Your engaging and courageous hero, Mary Quinn is an Irish woman whose family had all travelled over to England to find work.  I was wondering if you have any Irish connections yourself.

Probably.  My grandmother spoke of ‘Black Irish’ genes (Spanish Irish) in the family, and of ‘Great Uncle Archie coming over from Ireland,’ but I haven’t done any research on this.  

You really evoke a convincing sense of life in this often sordid part of Victorian England.  How did you set about researching the period?  And I was fascinated by the underground passages.  Did they really exist?

Black and white photo of Jacqueline Jacques

Jacqueline Jacques

 I borrowed books and maps, studied photographs and paintings of the period.  I went for walks on the Walthamstow marshes, through the streets and in Epping Forest.  I trawled the Internet for social history, facts about the police, housing, tile patterns, music hall.  But mostly I relied on my memory. I felt I knew these people; that I’d grown up among them.  I may be a few generations removed from the characters in the book, but we, too, were poor (after the war) and struggled to stay afloat just as they must have done.  My father, who grew up in Walthamstow in the 1920s, once told me about connecting cellars beneath the High Street shops, used by villains on the run from the police.  It may have been a myth for all I know.  My Dad was also a teller of tales. Truth or fiction?  Who knows?  I’m a writer.  I’ll use anything to make a good story.

Following on from the research behind The Colours of Corruption, I was wondering if, while you plotted the novel you knew early in the process where your characters would be at the end of the story.

 I vaguely knew that Archie would be drawn deeper into the criminal network but I had no idea what would happen to the other characters until the very end.  In fact I wrote several endings, none of which worked to my satisfaction.  As I got to know the characters, their histories, their motivations, they more or less told me how they would behave in any given circumstance and I wrote it down.  Sometimes I would drop a fact into the mix, like Mary’s sweet singing voice, or a sword-stick, or a pair of gold cufflinks, just to see where it would take me.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.  It’s a haphazard way of working, but there’s nothing like it for excitement.

I hope you enjoyed that look behind the scenes, more from Jacqueline Jacques on The Colours of Corruption to follow shortly.

Jacqueline Jacques and Victorian Corruption

This is just a quick post to flag up a new guest on The Landing, Jacqueline Jacques who will be answering questions about her new book Colours of Corruption (Honno Press, January 2013).

Jaqueline Jaques

Jaqueline Jacques

Just to whet your appetite, this the publisher’s  synopsis of Jacqueline’s engrossing crime novel, set in Victorian England:

Mary, a desperately poor cleaner, is a witness to murder. Archie, one of the first artists to work for the police, to support his other work, draws the man she says she saw at the scene. Fascinated by her ‘face full of bones’, he persuades her to sit for a portrait, but the man who buys the picture really wants to buy Mary. When he realises he’s betrayed her, Archie takes her to hide with his friends, but doesn’t realise what he’s started. He has no idea how this one woman links his wealthiest clients, the poorest slums, terrible secrets, and a violent thug who is now looking for Archie – the man Mary described to the police.
 
As this gripping thriller uncoils, Jacqueline Jacques paints an intricate, vibrant picture of the layers of Victorian London, where the poor are commodities, criminals have nothing to lose and the rich can buy anything.
 
And the murders go on…

colours_corruption

I plan to post up Jacqueline’s responses to my gently probing questions on Saturday 20th April so stop by and take a look. In the meantime follow the link above to Jacqueline’s website to find out more about the author and her previous novels:

Lottie  (Honno  1997)

Someone to Watch Over Me   (Piatkus 1997)

Wrong Way Up the Slide  (Piatkus 1998)

A Lazy Eye  (Piatkus  2000)

Skin Deep  (Honno 2004)

Sharp eyed viewers may recall that Honno Press has featured on these pages before, as I have previously reviewed one of their classic reprints, Winter Sonata by Dorothy Edwards  for Belletrista.

I’ll be back on Saturday….

Picture credits: Honno Press (with thanks)

Honno Press: Welsh Women’s Press (Gwasg Menywod Cymru)

Honno Press logo

Honno Press

This post is another one of those detours from the Landing Bookshelves that keep happening despite my best intentions. My only excuse is that if you discover a new (to you) author or publisher, you have a bounden duty to pass it on to anyone who may be interested. Well, as excuses go…

I came across Honno Press for the first time while book reviewing for www.belletrista.com   The novel in question, Winter Sonata (Dorothy Edwards, originally published in 1928) was part of the Honno Classics imprint. As I rather shamefacedly confessed at the time, I mistook this Dorothy Edwards for a children’s writer of the same name and when I realised my error did a bit of research into the other Dorothy Edwards at the same time as researching Honno Press.

Dorothy Edwards (1903-1934) was a very talented Welsh writer who published a collection of short stories called Rhapsody the year before her first novel in 1928. Winter Sonata contains a useful essay by Clare Flay about Dorothy Edwards and I also found a link to a copy of the original press account of her death by suicide. A sad loss to women’s literature indeed. After reading her novel (see review here) I will try to get hold of her short stories.

Honno (Welsh feminine form of ‘that’) Press was set up in 1986 with the twin aims of giving a wider platform to Welsh women writers and for increasing the opportunities in the publishing industry for the women of Wales. The company was set up as a co-operative with around 400 shares sold to members of the public in the first six months of trading.

The press, based in Aberystwyth, still operates within its original remit of only publishing work by women from Wales. Prospective writers either have to be Welsh or living in Wales or have significant Welsh connections. Apart from its shareholders’ continuing support, the press has received financial support from The Welsh Books Council and the European Union for its worthy endeavours to promote Welsh women’s literature. The publisher’s list boasts an impressive 450 authors whose work covers fiction (contemporary and classic), poetry, memoir and non-fiction as well as children’s and teen fiction.

cover of Winter Sonata

Winter Sonata

The catalogue has a strong Welsh language list as well, including books by well-known teen author Malorie Blackman translated into Welsh by Gwenllian Dafydd. Browsing through the Classics list has given me plenty of authors that I had not previously come across. As with the Persephone Books reprints (of which more another time perhaps) books that have slipped out of the reading public’s consciousness are given the chance to live again. Honno Classics provides a great opportunity to explore some rediscovered gems. I was particularly interested in the memoirs and some fiction reprints from the 1930s.

Over the years of Honno’s existence, many books have been prizewinners or have been included on awards shortlists. During the early years, Carol Anne Courtney won the 1989 ‘Wales Book of the Year’ for Morphine and Dolly Mixtures. More recently, Kitty Sewell’s thriller Ice Trap was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger in 2006. Coming right up to date Lorraine Jenkin’s comic novel Cold Enough to Freeze Cows won one of the top three prizes in the finals of the ‘Peoples Book Prize’ 2011.

To further the aims of the press in encouraging fresh new talent, Honno runs a programme of regular writing workshops (the next one is in January 2012) and hold ‘meet the editor’ sessions for prospective writers. Editors actively seek new writers for Honno Press with regular calls for submission for work they wish to include in the Honno short story collections. I am certainly planning to treat myself to couple of new books now that I have discovered this publisher; there might yet be a rival to my Persephone collection.

For further information on publications and workshops check out the website www.honno.co.uk

If anyone else has got any Honno Press favourites I would love to hear about them. Until next time…