Thursday, 30 July 2009

Nell Dunn VMC 283, 284

I blogged about Nell Dunn's two VMCs over on my other blog earlier in the year and have slightly re-written what I wrote for inclusion here...

"Nell Dunn is another author I've discovered by reading my way through Virago books at random. I came across Poor Cow and Up The Junction when I was ordering some DVDs for our film collection at work, and then decided to read the books before I watched the films"

Poor Cow is the story of a young woman living in the 1960s, and is as much a description of London in the 1960s as it is of her life. Amazon describe it as "This is Joy's story: a pink-lipsticked, mini-skirted tale of life, love and young motherhood in the sixties", but this makes it sound far more lighthearted than it is - Joy's husband is sent to prison, and she has hardly any money and a real struggle to survive. There is a sequel called Silver shoes (which I have languishing on my TBR book-case (although re-visiting my review makes me want to get it out tonight!) but which Virago did not publish). I then went on and watched the film last week and was really impressed by the way Ken Loach brought the book to life using lots of music and not too much dialogue. It's gritty and not terribly cheering but definitely worth watching.

Two covers - I've got the first.
Up the junction is more of a series of vignettes than a joined up story like Poor Cow. It gives us a glimpse into south London life, through the lives of three girls who work in a sweet factory during the week and at weekends go "Up the junction" to sit in cafes and pubs and try to have fun on a limited amount of money. It's again not a happy book, dreams tend to be stymied rather than fulfilled. I haven't yet got around to watching the film I'm still waiting to see how it translates.

Two covers for this one - I own the first.
I think what I liked so much about the books is how different they are from other Virago books that I've read. Main female character faces hard times is not an unusual theme, but so far the characters that have encountered hardship in the novels I've read have been from the middle and upper classes. I haven't really read any other "working class" centric Virago books yet, although I'm sure there must be some.

On the subject of films, I wonder if there is a list anywhere of Virago books which have been filmed? Might try to include mentions of those if there is...


  1. I need to look out for the first pictured copy of Up the Junction. I still haven't read Poor Cow even though I'm sure I commented at the time of your original post that I would :s.

    I didn't know that Ken Loach directed the adaptation.

    As for other Viragoes on film, I don't know of any list and you may be best posting on LibraryThing and compiling the list yourself or emailing Virago. Off the top of my head, I have Rebecca (the obvious one), The Magic Toyshop, and The Enchanted April. There's also I Capture the Castle There are a number of film tie-in covers so that is one resource of identifying where there were adaptations made ... The Whartons and The Orchid House are another two. The more I consider this the more I think of some examples!

  2. I think I've seen the picturisation of Poor Cow, it wasn't easy viewing. I imagine the book is just as hard to read.

    Other Viragos turned into films that I can think of - 84 Charing Cross Road, The Birds and All Passion Spent.
    I'm pretty sure Virago's website lists the books that have been filmed, I'll have a look in a minute.

  3. Yes, I shall ask over on

    Am not very well today so might actually get around to watching Up the junction this afternoon.

  4. I'm sorry to hear that you're unwell today, Verity :(. Perhaps the silver-lining will be some VVV progress. Feel better.

    I am intending to watch The Enchanted April soon so that I can finally review the book.

  5. My collection of green covers consists of only two, The Way Things Are and The Edwardians. I did spy one last week at a second-hand bookshop but it had Mr Maggot in the title and I just couldn't bring myself to purchase it! Sorry that you're not feeling very well, take care.

  6. I briefly owned Up The Junction, but someone trustworthy on books told me I wouldn't like it, so I gave it away...

  7. Simon - Was the someone trustworthy a VMC collector? It's definitely worth reading, although I agree it's not like the other VMCs I've seen you've enjoyed. Plus it's quite short!

    Claire and Darlene - thanks for the good wishes. I'm never off work so that was a bit weird! Felt too guilty to watch a film, fell asleep on the sofa instead. Will try to watch Up the junction this week as I've had it out of the library for over a month now...