Saturday, 24 April 2010

James Tait Black Memorial Prize

I've noticed that a couple of the Virago Modern Classics that I've been reading have won the James Tait Black Memorial prize - it wasn't a prize that I'd heard of, so I looked it up, and found that it is awarded (and is still awarded, last being awarded in 2009 to Sebastien Barry for The secret scripture) for "literature written in the English language". According to wikipedia, where you can see the whole list of prize winners, it is the oldest and one of the most prestigious book prizes in Britain (although it doesn't seem to get nearly as much publicity as Booker or Orange for example).

Anyway, I was interested to spot the VMC winners among the list - it is good to see that there are some recognisably great books on the list that I am working my way through. I've in fact read half of them. Of the other half, two are ones that I am keen to read as they are by authors that I have previously enjoyed; the ICB I'm a little nervous of trying for the first time - maybe this would be a good place to start.

1930: EH Young - Miss Mole
1931: Kate O'Brien - Without my cloak
1936: Winifred Holtby - South Riding
1953: Margaret Kennedy - Troy Chimneys
1955: Ivy Compton-Burnett - Mother and son
1961: Jennifer Dawson - The ha-ha

I must investigate what other prizes VMCs have a trend of winning!

(Thanks to Paperback reader Claire for suggesting the idea for this post)


  1. Thanks for this post! I just read Without my Cloak and that got me thinking about reading more JTB prize winners. And of course I love reading VMCs ... your cross-reference is really useful! I've read Miss Mole and didn't even realize it had won the prize. I'll be on the lookout for these works. Thanks!

  2. Laura - it's funny when books fal into so many categories! I must read Without my cloak soon.