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‘A Utopia of tea-parties, dinner-parties, boat-races, lawn-tennis, antique shops, picnics . . .’

‘A Utopia of tea-parties, dinner-parties . . .’ | Period Piece

‘It was a Utopia of tea-parties, dinner-parties, boat-races, lawn-tennis, antique shops, picnics, new bonnets, charming young men, delicious food and perfect servants; and it almost seems too good to be true . . .’

Greetings from somewhere between Hoxton and Cromer as we journey to East Anglia for our summer soirée at The Holt Bookshop in Norfolk this evening. For this week’s news we thought we’d make a stop in Cambridge along the way, and transport you to Gwen Raverat’s childhood home in an old mill house on the Backs along the river Cam where ‘there was plenty to see; nearly all the life of Cambridge flowed backwards and forwards over our bridge, and before our house’.

Gwen Raverat is best-known for her glorious wood engravings, but in her childhood memoir Period Piece she created a perfect small masterpiece of another kind – a deliciously funny, affectionate and atmospheric picture of life in the small world of 19th-century academic Cambridge among the eccentric Darwin clan. Illustrated with Gwen’s own delightful drawings, it not only brilliantly captures a moment in time but also shows us the making of the artist Gwen was to become.

Please read on for an extract from this charming little book, along with further reading recommendations. The office is now closed until 9.30am on Monday 8 July, but if you are tempted to place an order online, please feel free to do so while the office is closed. All orders will be packed up and sent out early next week, when we’re back at our desks.

With best wishes, as ever, from the SF staff

Jess, Isabel, Rebecca, Izzy & Jennie

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