Tuesday, 25 January 2011

My Virago Life

I wrote a post for Persephone Reading Week (coming up at the end of February over on my other blog in a new weekend format- Virago-ites are often Persephone fans too!) about how I discovered and started collecting the imprint, so I thought I'd do something similar for Virago as part of Virago week. (I had thought that I had written about this somewhere before, but I can't find it!).

My first encounter with the Virago Modern Classics list would have been when I read Frost in May by Antonia White. This was in fact the first VMC to be issued, although I didn't know it at the time, and I don't think I even read a VMC edition. I was still at school and my Mum recommended it to me. About 5 years later, Virago brought out the beautiful modern editions of Antonia White's quartet of books and I could not resist purchasing them even though I was very short of money at the time. I still did not know anything about the VMC imprint. IT was not until after a bad bout of depression, which resulted in me spending several months on a diet of chick lit, that I happened upon Rosamund Lehmann's Dusty Answer at the library.

I devoured it - it was wonderful to read a properly good book. I sought out Rosamund Lehmann's back catalogue and read them all in the space of a month.

A colleague then suggested some other authors that I might like on that basis - Elizabeth Taylor, and Sylvia Townsend Warner, all of which I found in characteristic matching green editions. This coincided with my discovery of the book blogging world and I found a whole appreciative audience of these books.
I then embarked on my challenge to read my way through the entire VMC list - I wanted something to give me focus in my reader. There were about 540 when I started, but as Virago are continuing to issue VMCs, the list is growing and now stands at 555! I have made friends with Sophie who looks after their publicity and she kindly sends me the latest titles as they come out, something which I always highlight on my blog. I did initially try to approach the task in hand with some sort of method, but since then it has become rather more haphazard.

I have found some truly wonderful books which I would not have come across had it not been for doing the VVV. Here are links to some of my favourites, which might inspire your reading for Virago Reading Week.
Pin to see the peepshow
Novel on yellow paper
Family history
One fine day
My brilliant career
The getting of wisdom
The Ha-ha
On the side of angels
Happy Foreigner
The Good daughters trilogy
Anything by Elizabeth Von Arnim - a real find of an author!

As a result of my project, I have come across a generous community of fellow Virago lovers. The librarything Virago Modern Classics group is a truly wonderful place where VMCs and other books are discussed; members are often willing to pass on duplicates, and I have recieved a several books this way. In addition a number of people who read this blog have offered me books which has been extremely kind!

The other main result of the project has been a huge increase in the number of books residing in my flat (actually, that has been more a result of blogging in general, but a large number of the books I have acquired over the last 2 years have been VMCs). It's fun to have something to search for when in charity shops and I console myself with the fact that they are very collectable!


  1. Your experience of discovering VMC is similar to mine - although I actually bought Dusty Answer in a Penguin edition and then went on to seek out other Rosamund Lehmann novels, alerting me to VMC. She remains one of my most favourite authors.

    I love your blog - you're always so interesting!

  2. I love reading how people discover things that become really important to them - it's wonderful how a simple thing can so enrich your life! What a lovely story - and yes, VMCs are very collectable, and you're building a COLLECTION, so it's fine to buy loads of books!

  3. I'd started to plan a post much like this and find that great minds think alike. I've loved reading this post Verity, and hope you don't mind me doing something similar.

  4. So interesting to read and thank you for linking in to favourite books. I've just read your review of Novel on Yellow Paper which I read years ago - next time I'm at my parent's I shall try and find it and give it a re read.