As I’ve said before, the wonderful memoirs reprinted as Slightly Foxed Editions make terrific gifts. And if you’re looking for something a little smaller and lighter to slip into a stocking, or into your own pocket or handbag, take a look at Slightly Foxed Paperbacks. They have the same classic, elegant design of the hardcover editions, but are dressed in a high-quality cream-colored softcover binding with a touch of accent color, and sport French flaps (always a favorite feature of mine). Right now there are nine of these understated gems available, which you can purchase individually, or as a complete set at special savings.
Recently I had the chance to sample a couple of the titles on offer. The Young Ardizzone by Edward Ardizzone, the renowned artist and children’s book illustrator (currently the focus of a retrospective at London’s House of Illustration) is a marvelously observed memoir of an Edwardian childhood. As with E.H. Shepard’s Drawn from Memory (a book that I hope SF will take on one day!) the prose is charming in itself, but it’s the illustrations that really make the book stand out. Though Ardizzone claims he didn’t grow up with the idea of becoming an artist, only turning to it as a career after being rejected from the army and failing as a clerical worker, he captures his childhood memories with such vivid immediacy one can hardly believe he wasn’t sketching them as they happened.
Rosemary Sutcliff, another of the twentieth century’s great creators of literature for children (with no upper age limit), captured her own childhood in Blue Remembered Hills. Hers was a life marked by what some would call tragedy, as she suffered from an early-onset form of arthritis known as Still’s Disease. Painfully limited in her movements, and with corresponding constrictions in her social life, she yet developed extraordinary skills of observation and insight that allowed her to create historical novels of great imaginative power. Her love for people, places, and the natural world shines through every page of this memoir, as it does in her fictional work.
I’ve also read two other of the available titles, although in different editions: Look Back with Love by Dodie Smith (a must-read for fans of I Capture the Castle), and My Grandmothers and I by Diana Holman-Hunt, a mesmerizing account of a very odd family. Based on these four, I can confidently recommend Slightly Foxed Paperbacks as sure to enchant, educate, and divert you.
The most recent SF e-newsletter features an excerpt from Look Back with Love, which will give you a taste of the delights in store. I do hope you will be inspired to dive further in.