Monday, 24 January 2011

Virago Week / Glitter of Mica (Kesson) 386

This week Rachel and Carolyn are holding a Virago reading week, which is a chance for bloggers to read and celebrate the wonderful world of Virago Modern Classics. Of course, every week is a Virago Reading Week here at Verity's Virago Venture, I thought that I would mention it. As hopefully this week will be a good chance for people to be exposed to VMCs, I thought it might be a good idea to focus on ones on my TBR pile which are rarely mentioned and largely out of print. it seems to me that there is a core of VMCs which are widely read - predominantly the ones by authors who have been reprinted several times - and many of the others languish forgotten. Yet, they were published originally because they fitted into the remit of the list and therefore (to me at least!) have some sort of interest. I've amassed a little pile of late following a spree on ebay and Amazon, mainly titles which I had never come across before and which I thought I would order to investigate (unfortunately they are mainly long ones, but since I plan to read them eventually I'll give them a go!). The first of these titles is Glitter of Mica by Jessie Kesson.

Kesson is an author who I have only encountered as a result of this project, and only once before when I read her short stories back in 2010. I found them "delightful"and am sorry that it took me so long to get around to reading one of her novels. Set again in her native Scotland, this book is a wonderful evocation of life in a farming community in a small parish called Caldwell. We see the distinction between the crofters (who work on land that they own) and the cotters (who work land belonging to others) and learn about the subtle differences in status that they have and the way that they expect to be treated by others.

The story centres around the character of Hugh Riddel, Head Dairyman, and his family. He is unhappily married, with one daughter Helen. It is Helen's life which fascinated me most. College educated, and with a place to go to university she is apart from the community. Yet she has an affair with another member of the community. The way that this story plays out was sad and had a sudden and tragic ending which came almost out of nowhere. I love it when an author is able to create such drama in the space of a couple of pages.

A short book, but one which is beautifully written and gives insight into a world that I did not know much about. I am very keen to get my hands on the other two novels by Kesson which are VMCs! This has just been published once by Virago in the italicized green edition.


  1. Thanks so much for mentioning the week Verity - of course it's always Virago Reading Week over here! I love you picking out these more obscure titles. There is definitely a core list of the usual suspects and I certainly have never heard of some of the ones you post about. I'm so interested to see which others you choose to tell us about this week!

  2. Never heard of this VMC before. Sounds interesting.

  3. Jessie Kesson is such a wonderful writer, and I have to thank you for giving me such a lovely reminder.