Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Antonia White VMC 1, 13, 14, 15, 44

One of the ways in which I am going to attempt to handle this Virago challenge and deal with the issue of Virago books I have already read, is to do a "bulk" author post, and write about all of the VMC books of an author in one go. It's more difficult to write a review of a book read a while ago, so hopefully this will make it a bit more manageable; it would be lovely to have the chance to re-read all of the VMCs but that would just make this challenge impossible.

It was obvious that the first author I should treat in this way is the author of the first Virago modern classic, Antonia White, who is incidentally probably the author of the first Virago book that I ever read. I remember reading Frost in May, and the subsequent books in her quartet in my late teens. Having loved school stories as a child, my Mum recommended Frost in May to me as an "adult" school story; finding out about the genre of coming of age books and books about life at school from an adult perspective has been deeply influential on my reading since then. This is the story of nine-year old Nanda Gray who is sent to a convent school by her Catholic convert father. It is a beautiful depiction of life in a Catholic school at the beginning of the last century, giving insight into the rituals and practices involved, as well as

Frost in May is succeeded by The lost traveller, The sugar house and Beyond the glass which continue the story of Clara Batchelor (yes, confusingly the heroine has a name change, but it is the same person!), her live and her loves. The second book covers Clara's return from the convent and life at home with her father as she grows up. In book three Clara has become an actress, and then gets married, and book four sees her descent into madness. I think the last book is amazing account of what it is to go mad; having experienced depression personally, although not on such a grand scale, the writing really rings true for what it is like to suffer in that way.

I've read White's autobiography, and I would hugely recommend this to people who have enjoyed these four novels as it is fascinating to see how much White's life is reflected in these stories. There is also a very good biography by Dunn.

The other VMC book by White is Strangers. This is a collection of short stories on many similar themes to those covered in the novels such as love and madness.

Here are some of the VMC covers - I think each title of the quartet has been published three times. I am lucky enough to own the most recent reprinting, and they are among my favourite books.


  1. Hello, I came across your blog thanks to Google Alerts, which lets me know every time someone posts something about Virago Modern Classics. I've been collecting for just over a year now.
    I am also a member of LibraryThing, a site for avid readers. One of the site's many excellent features is a discussion group focused specifically on Virago Modern Classics. I noticed "Paperback Reader" commented on one of your other posts; she is also a member of LT's Virago group. Come on over and meet some nice people who share your passion for these great books!

    I've added this blog and your main blog to my Google Reader so I can follow your progress ... click on my name above if you want to visit my blog.

  2. I'm so glad Laura has discovered your blog :).

    I only managed half of Frost in May before life got in the way (it was around the time I was moving to London) but I do intend to return to it and the quartet as a whole.

    I enjoyed the first bulk post.

  3. P.S. Another Virago/Persephone lover and recent blogger and her post on Frost in May:


  4. Oh and dovegreyreader is doing a read-along next month of One Fine Day. I thought it would be a good way to finish Persephone Reading Week to read and join in the discussion about a Persephone/Virago author.

  5. Always lovely to see Virago pictures. I did my own Virago collage here: http://stuck-in-a-book.blogspot.com/2009/01/virago-collage.html

    including that lovely edition of Strangers by Antonia White, second from bottom.

  6. Hi Laura, it is nice to hear from you. I will try to pop over to the librarything.com group soon, but I am struggling to keep up with my blogging and reading!
    I'm very impressed with your Virago collection, and will add your blog to my favourites. I'm thinking about having some guest contributors on this blog, and wondered if you might like to write about your experiences of collecting VMCs?

    Claire - I was intending to take One Fine Day to Cornwall with me (hoping for good weather!), although I've just ordered a Vita Sackville West with "sea" in the title too for that trip. I shall have to take my laptop so I can write posts even if I can't post them or I'll get behind. I must check out that blog... Thanks for helping me share the VVV. We must discuss guest posts soon...

    Love the collage Simon - I might have to prey on you to borrow obscure Virago titles if I run out...(quite unlikely actually, I need to exhaust the public library, Magdalen, and my TBR, and there's always the Bod!)

  7. Thanks for linking to my post PBR! I love the VMC group on Library Thing, I can't believe it took me so long to find other collectors online!

    I am an obsessive Virago collector too, though I am not allowed to buy any more until I have read the ones I have. I am finding this very hard but so far I have survived three days without buying any books, which is a record!!

    I love the idea of this blog, I look forward to reading your future posts!

  8. Thanks for visiting Rachel.

    I'm not exactly an obsessive collector (I'll post some pics soon of my pile, which isn't too big), just an obsessive reader. It would be lovely to own as many as Laura but my finances don't permit and my boyfriend would probably move out!

  9. No problem, Rachel.

    I am an obsessive collector and really should become an obsessive reader of the ones I do have!

    At a current count I have seventy.

  10. I counted mine this morning, a paltry 47.

  11. I have 35, I think...but that's only original Greens. I thought I had loads but compared to others I clearly don't! Maybe I am allowed to buy more!!!

    I have quite a few Virago books that aren't Virago editions too - same with my Persephones...but they don't count!

  12. Rachel, only half of mine are green so don't worry! I have different editions too but not that many.

  13. I don't have that many in Oxford, but you're welcome to borrow the ones I do have!