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.