Sunday, 23 January 2011

Virago Reading Week

Thank you Rachel and Carolyn for organising this week. It's prompted me to revisit the Viragos I've read and to seek out new ones. Carolyn's list had me searching through my memory... and has prompted this post.

Welcome Strangers by Mary Hocking and The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West were teenage read. Oh how we loved Knole, trying to imagine living there but not taking on the knowledge that we, as girls, could only have married into it, not inherited it. Elizabeth von Arnim The Enchanted April was read, watched and then re read. Other Elizabeth von Arnim novels have peppered my reads since. There's a book that's a Virago and a Persephone, Round about a pound a week by Maud Pember Reeves. I'm waiting for Persephone Reading weekend to read it. Seeing the title in Perspehone triggered something in my distant memory. A book mentioned during my degree, I have handwritten lecture notes on it, and so it feels fitting to read. Another Virago relating to The University Years Stevie Smith's Novel on Yellow Paper. I loved her poems so much I wanted to read a novel. Dodie Smith I Capture the Castle I know I've said it before but oh so glad I didn't read it until my mid twenties - it would have taken on too much importance in our teenage minds. 84 Charing Cross Road I've already read it twice but writing this makes me feel that I should perhaps read it again.
Edith Wharton The House of Mirth enters the young woman living in London phase in my life. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, I had a bit of an Atwood phase having devoured Blind Assassin. Nadine Gordimer's The Lying Days helped me make sense of my travels around South Africa and of being a young woman in the turmoils of love. I keep meaning to read another of her novels... One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes perhaps my favourite book of last year and definately one that prompted many posts.
My most recent reads, for this week. Union Street by Pat Barker to challenge me and not glide into comfortable, covetable domesticity. I so enjoyed this book - my favourite character was Alice Bell and it made me wonder if her thoughts are the thoughts trapped in my very frail 96 year old grandmother's mind. I'm currently reading Frost in May - a book I've been wanting to read for a very long time and lo andbehold found a pristine copy in the Forest Hill Red Cross Shop last month.

So, for next week. I had too many quotes for one per day and whilst mulling over the books I felt they fitted into themes. Themes that in my eyes sum up Virago. I hope they show the breadth of Virago for our daydreams, emotions and realities.

Happy Virago Reading Week


  1. What a wonderful post! I love your memories of Virago Reading, and how diverse your reading has been. It's amazing how much our lives can be defined by what we read at particular times.

    Frost in May is a very special book. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and I look forward to you taking part in the week!

  2. My very first Virago book was a copy of Zora Neale Hurston's 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' bought in Hay on Wye - it still moves me now.

  3. Joan, I love your comment on "I Capture the Castle." I did read it as a teenager as did my two sisters and it did have a formative effect on us -- well, I'm a novelist! Enough said!


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