Monday, 31 May 2010

Sylvia Townsend Warner 299, 390

I read a couple of Sylvia Townsend Warner novels before starting this blog, and as I have just read Summer will show (review to follow tomorrow...), I thought I would post about them today. The more of Townsend Warner that I read, the more fascinated I am by her. She is by no means my favourite Virago author thus far, but I am intrigued by the diversity of her writing matter. A number of Virago authors write books that are easily pigeonholed - if you like one of them, then you will very likely like the rest of them. Townsend Warners books are so different that it is difficult to make that assumption. On the other hand, it can be refreshing to find an author who writes such different books.

The two books that I have read are Lolly Willowes and The corner that held them.

Lolly Willowes is the somewhat magical tale of a spinster who, having spent 20 years living with relations, following the death of her father when she was 28, moves to a small village where she discovers a secret vocation of witchcraft. It's been published twice by Virago with italicised and modern green covers.

The corner that held them is set in the 14th century, and follows the inhabitants of a nunnery under 4 different prioresses. It has been published three times in green covers. I particularly like the most recent one, which was the one that I borrowed from the library that I used to work in.
Virago also publish a book of short stories, Mr Fortune's Maggot, After the death of Don Juan, and the Flint Anchor which I look forward to reading in due course, as well as Summer will show which you can read about tomorrow.

I also recently acquired her diaries, and as I read my way through the rest of her novels I shall be dipping in and out of that. My mind boggled at what Townsend Warner must have looked like from the illustration on the cover of this volume:
But she looks reassuringly normal in this picture which I found of her online at the Sylvia Townsend Warner archive (well worth a visit):

Friday, 28 May 2010

The spoilt kill (Kelly) 449

A fantastically gripping, and extremely readable crime novel, The spoilt kill, by Mary Kelly won the prestigious CWA crime novel of the year award in 1961, and was lent to me by a colleague. Set in Stoke at the end of the 1950s, Kelly's story is based on meticulous research into the pottery industry which makes the book more than just a crime-page-turner.

The private inspector Nicholson has been hired by Shentall's pottery firm to investigate the theft of designs. It's a fairly routine investigation, and Nicholson gets to know the members of the firm as he carries it out. One particular woman, the beautiful Corinna, stands out, and Nicholson finds it hard to resist her charms although she appears to be the chief suspect. However, matters become complicated when a body is found in the "kill" (slang in Stoke for kiln). The investigation takes on a new shade - are the crimes connected, and who IS behind them.

I don't normally seek out crime novels but I did enjoy this one - I loved the detail of the setting and the story had extremely good pace. None of Mary Kelly's other novels are VMCs, but I shall be interested to see if much more crime turns up in the list. It's just been published once with a modern green cover.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

At the still point (Benson) 280

Mary Benson's At the still point takes us into yet another country and historical time period - it never fails to impress me how wide-ranging the VMC list is and how by reading my way through it I am constantly being introduced to places and bits of history that I don't know very much about. This time, South Africa in the 1960s under apartheid.

Anne Dawson is a journalist who has returned to South Africa after a long period of exile, who becomes involved in reporting injustice suffered by the non-Whites in the legal system. She then begins to work with a reformist laywer, named Matthew, who is defending a woman accused of selling a van in order to raise money to fund the black separitist movement. It gives an interesting insight into the world of apartheid, and I suspect that that was Benson's primary aim in writing the novel - she had been a journalist with similar interests in the 1960s; she was eventually imprisoned and on leaving South Africa for England was not permitted to return - and I felt that the non-apartheid parts of the plot, such as the growing relationship between Anne and Matthew, did not come over quite as strongly as the political issues.

It's just been published once by Virago with an original green cover.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Mandoa Mandoa (Holtby) 88

Mandoa Mandoa! is Winifred Holtby's last novel, and really quite a different book to her other novels. It was written at a time of national disillusionment during the Depression when the Labour government had just collapsed. Personally, Holtby had begun to suffer from the kidney failure that would eventually kill her, and wrote the book whilst trying to recuperate in Monks Risborough. It's also partly a result of Holtby's tour of South Africa in 1926 where she became interested in the differences between the African and European ways of live and the notions of being "civilised".

Mandoa is a small state to the West of Abyssinia, predominantly savage, and relying on the slave trade. After a film company are temporarily stranded there, its leaders begin to think of modernisation. At the same time, in England, Maurice Durrant, believes that he can expand his business, Princes' Tours, into Mandoa and sends his brother out there to work. An airport and hotel are built and a wedding is planned to try to put Mandoa on the map.

It's a strange book which is very much a satire on Western industrialised society; whilst social commentary is certainly a key feature of Holtby's other novels, it is very different in this one. And somehow it didn't quite work for me - I'm not sure whether it was that I wasn't gripped by the plot or that I didn't really identify with the characters, or whether the issue that Holtby tackles is just hideously dated, but it really didn't do it for me.

It's just been published once by Virago in an original green edition, and the rather striking cover image is a picture of some Andalusian mountain ranges.

Whilst I'm on a Holtby title, I should briefly mentionPoor Caroline, another VMC which I read before embarking on this challenge:
And that's it for Holtby for this challenge! I'm sad that I didn't enjoy Mandoa Mandoa hugely as I loved South Riding, The crowded street, Anderby Wold and Poor Caroline.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Surfacing (Atwood) 8

One of the earliest VMCs, Surfacing, by Margaret Atwood is a slim volume but a complex read. On the surface, it is the story of a woman who returns to the island with three friends (one of whom is her lover) where she spent part of her childhood in order to seek out her father who has gone missing. Delve a little deeper and it is a rather dark story of a woman trying to figure out who she is. Go further (and I didn't make it to this level I'm afraid, but there was quite a good introduction) and the novel is full of religious imagery. It is thus a novel that can be read on many different levels.

Whilst this fitted into the non-sci-fi sort of Atwood novels that I enjoy more, it was very different to the longer, meatier narratives of books such as Alias Grace and Cat's Eye. I couldn't help wondering if perhaps this could have been elaborated into something like one of those.

I still need to read Lady Oracle, and then I'm done with Margaret Atwood as part of this venture.

It's been published four times with very different covers (I own the original green version)

Monday, 24 May 2010

Open the door! (Carswell) 201

Open the door is a fantastic novel by Catherine Carswell which relates the story of Joanna Bannerman, a young woman seeking the freedom that has been denied to her by her religious upbringing. The story starts with her as a young girl - we meet her scatterbrained mother and siblings, and see how their haphazard, but otherwise reasonably normal life changes on the death of her father as Juley (the mother) becomes increasingly involved in evangelical circles. As Joanna grows up, the relationship with her mother becomes somewhat strained due to Joanna's apparent lack of spirituality. Joanna's world expands considerably when she attends Italian lessons and ends up getting married and moving to Florence. But this was not straightforward; Joanna has already lost the first man that she was engaged to when he decided that he was not in love with her - this loss continues to haunt Joanna. Her time in Florence is short-lived when she is suddenly widowed, and we follow her back to Glasgow where attends the Glasgow School of Art which really starts to broaden her horizons. She still seeks love, and this time embarking on an affair with a married man, much to Juley's horrow. I found it fascinating reading as I wasn't quite sure what would happen next to Joanna or quite how the book would resolve itself.

Virago have just published this once, with an original green cover. Isn't the hair of the woman on the front absolutely fantastic? The painting by the way is called "Ill omen", by Frances Macdonald and comes from the Hunterian Art Gallery at Glasgow University.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

More fan mail!

I've had another lovely comment this week on the blog, which I wanted to share, not only because it made me feel good, but because I was tickled by what JRSM said:

£Hi! I just discovered your blog, and it's an absolutely amazing resource. I've been collecting VMCs for some years (my eyes jump straight to them in second-hand bookshops), and have about 250 of the older green-spined ones. Whenever I look at ABE or Amazon for out-of-print VMCs, there's usually no blurb or description of what the book is about, so I don't know whether to take the plunge or not. Now I've printed off your whole blog so far and will use it to guide my future buying and reading. Fantastic stuff! Thank you. PS: I have to admit I did the printing at work, and used the binding machine to give it an appropriately olive-green cover. "

I emailed him and he kindly supplied me with pictures of his print out. I want one too (though maybe when the project is completed!)

JRSM has his own blog, Caustic Cover Critic, and mentioned that he interviewed the cover artist for the most recent Angela Carter books recently, which you can find here.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Sapphira and the slave girl (Cather) 237

Sapphira and the slave girl is Willa Cather's last novel and quite different to her earlier work. Set in Virginia as opposed to the frontier, it was written (according to the introduction) at a time in her life when she was becoming more reflective, and thus she began to draw on the experiences of her early life, living in this area until she was eight years old.

It tells the story of Sapphira, a millers wife, confined to a wheelchair, who in the 1850s is one of the few West Virginians left owning slaves; her husband Henry is increasingly unhappy about this. Nonethless when Sapphira becomes irrationally jealous of her young slave girl Nancy and wishes to sell her, she is overruled by Henry. So she comes up with a plan to ruin the girl.

I didn't feel that this book packed the punch of the other books that I have read by Cather - Sapphira wasn't especially likeable nor the storng female-lead character that I encountered in My Antonia and O Pioneers. But it was well worth reading for the contrast that it makes to her other works.

It's been published twice by Virago, and I'm lucky enough to have the original green version with a very pretty cover. Unfortunately this scan isn't terribly clear.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Alexander's bridge (Cather) 339

Alexander's bridge was Cather's first novel. And it is a very different read to the Cather novels I've read to date. The principle character, Bartley Alexander, is a male, and the book lacks the concept of a strong female lead which seems to characterise the other books by Cather (admittedly I have not read even half of her work). The story is also simple and simply told, it is a slim volume.

Bartley Alexander is an engineer, with a specialism in bridges. He has forged a hugely successful career in America, and has a stunning, almost "trophy" wife, Winifred. But this would be no story. The book sees Alexander torn between this world and another, following a visit to London where he meets an old flame, Hilda who represents a different sort of life - more free and exciting (or is that because it is just different from the norm), and describes his ensuing mid-life crisis. The book has a sudden and shocking ending when a bridge that Alexander is working on collapses, killing him and many of those working on it in the process. But while it could be seen as retribution for Alexander's dilemma, Cather is clear to demonstrate that it is a genuine accident.

But I still enjoyed it, although perhaps not as much as O Pioneers or My Antonia. It's been published in two different green editions by Virago and I borrowed the more recent one from the library.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A woman's guide to adultery (Clewlow)

The woman's guide to adultery sounded like an intriguing title and the book itself was interesting. It is the tale of a group of men and women belonging to a university community who are all brought together through a network of extra marital affairs. The principal character Rose is violently against this culture and hugely disapproving of the relationships that her two best friends have with married men and their determination to break up the marriages. But then Rose falls in love with her tutor, Paul, who is also married...

Ultimately, I didn't like this book because I disagreed so violently with the premise. I believe strongly in monogamous relationships and fully believe that in the right relationship there would never be any need for adultery, and I would rather not be in a wrong relationship than one which needed to be supplemented by extra-relationship activity. On the other hand, the message of the book was also that affairs with married men cause pain for the women involved, which some way goes to support my beliefs.

It's just been published once by Virago, with a modern style cover.

A public service?!

I had a lovely comment on my blog earlier from hockadilly in response to my post "Ordinary Families" which I wrote last October and I had to share it:

A special thankyou! I read this book back in the 80s and quite enjoyed it. Subsquently I learned to sail, and often thought I'd like to reread the book, because so much of it revolves around sailing. BUT I had forgotten the title and author, just knew it was a Virago and had a vague memory of the cover painting. Every now and then I'd have a go at searching on the internet, without luck. Then bingo! I found your blog and searched through until I found it. I'm now happily rereading it and really enjoying it, especially the sailing sections.

I am feeling really happy that my blog is actually proving USEFUL as well as interesting!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Some more acquisitions

I was lucky enough to recieve a £10 Amazon voucher for participation in a personal development project at work and it gave me the opportunity to buy a few things from my Amazon Virago wishlist! It was quite hard to choose, but I selected these ones:

Open the door (Carswell)
Mandoa Mandoa (Holtby)
Rhapsody (Edwards)
Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther (Arnim)

With the exception of the first, these are all by authors whose books I have enjoyed as part of my venture, and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into these!

I'm fascinated by the little sticker that says a Scottish classic, Virago on the Carswell book - I've not seen one of these before.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Return of the soldier (West) 32

The return of the soldier was Rebecca West's first novel, and I have to say that this slim volume is the one I've enjoyed most out of all of her books which I've read so far. It felt like quite a different sort of work to her Cousin Rosamund trilogy or to Harriet Hume.

The soldier in question is Chris; he has been fighting in the first world war, his return is marred by shell shock and the fact that he cannot remember the last 15 years of his life. The last fifteen years include his marriage to Kitty, his beautiful wife; he remembers himself as still being in love with his childhood sweetheart Margaret. The women involved have the choice as to whether to leave him as he is, with this huge gap in his memory, or try to effect some sort of "cure".

The book is narrated by his cousin Jenny, herself also somewhat in love with Chris, and her narration provides West with a means to explore the consequences of the damages of war. It is this which makes the book very much more than just a simple return from war/love story, and thus the basis for West's more philosophically books. The prose is absolutely beautiful, so I would definitely recommend this one, especially to those, like me with an interest in the World Wars and their consequences.

The novel has been published three times by Virago; my copy bought from Amazon is the most recent edition, I wish very much it had been the older green one to complement my two other original green Rebecca Wests - I think the oldest one is by far the nicest cover. It has also been published prolifically by other publishers, obviously indicating its popularity.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Afternoon of a good woman (Bawden)

Time for another Nina Bawden, this one being The afternoon of a good woman. I have to say that I think that this is one of her most accomplished novels, being cleverly told, and despite having been written in the 1970s, remarkably undated.

It tells the story of Penelope, a magistrate, on the day that she has decided to leave her husband. Her day presiding over court cases is interspersed with her thoughts about her past, bringing up issues such as sex, marital boredom, families, children, incest. Gradually, the memories piece together to build up a picture of Penelope's life and enable us to see why she has got to the point of deciding to leave her husband.

It's been published in the Green spinal type of Virago edition (at some point I must clarify the different sorts of green editions so that I can be more

Just the Grain of Truth to read and then I'm done with Bawden!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Hours before dawn (Fremlin)

The hours before dawn by Celia Fremlin was an ebay purchase based on the fact that it was a Virago Modern Classic that I hadn't heard of before, and the title sounded somewhat intriguing (I don't tend to do much more research than that into my ebay purchases since as the plan is to read ALL of the VMCs I'm probably going to read the book anyway in due course, but this is a good way of starting!).

A domestic setting, but ultimately a story of extreme suspense. Louise, the main character, is a harrassed mother of three, trying to cope with a newborn baby who won't sleep through the night as well as two younger daughters. Fremlin well describes Louise's situation and it is difficult not to feel sympathy for her. They take in a lodger, a slightly mysterious school teacher named Miss Brandon. And the fatigued Louise starts to lose sense of reality and begins to believe that Miss Brandon is spying on them... The novel is extremely well plotted and builds to a horrific conclusion - it's difficult to write more without giving the story away!

It's just been published once by Virago with the modern style of green cover. Unfortunately Virago don't publish any of her other novels which is a shame as apparently she is known for writing extremely good but underrated crime novels. This novel was awarded the Edgar Allan Poe prize for best crime novel.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Unlit lamp (Radclyffe Hall) 42

I've read two Radclyffe Hall novels for this challenge, but this third one, The unlit lamp (kindly lent to me by Simon from Stuck-in-a-book) is the one that I have enjoyed the most. Despite having similarly bleak themes to The well of loneliness, there was quite a lot of humour at least in the early part of the the book and I found the story interesting.

Set in the seaside town of Seabourne, the Unlit Lamp tells the story of two sisters, Joan and Millie, but focussing primarily on Joan, the elder. They live with their extremely conventional parents, Mr and Mrs Ogden; Mrs Ogden is quite bitter about married life but this leads to some of the entertaining and humourous scenes in the book. Joan and Millie are taught by Elizabeth, their governess - the Ogdens don't place much value on education for women. Joan and Elizabeth develop a close friendship, which develops lesbian overtones (that never actually really materialise), but this provokes strong jealousy in Mrs Ogden who wants to keep her elder daughter close to her. Joan has the chance of escape through Elizabeth, hoping to study medicine at Cambridge and then move to London to live in a flat with her friend, but she has to give up the dream when her father suffers ill-health and dies. She tries to help Millie escape from the family, but even she has to return home when she falls ill. Joan is effectively stuck living with Mrs Ogden, and cannot even dream of going to live with Elizabeth as she has turned her back on her affectation (love?) for Joan and got married.

The book develops into a tragedy of lost opportunity and family pressures which is quite far away from the light beginning where family life was just an irritant.

It's just been published once by Virago with an original green cover.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The last summer (O'Brien) 349

Having enjoyed so many of Kate O'Brien's novels I was very happy that there were several more on the Virago Modern Classic list which I had not yet read. This is a beautifully written tale of a French actress, Angele, who is touring Ireland with some friends. Bored with their company she decides to take herself to Drumaninch, the birthplace of her father, which he had often talked about, and where her cousins still live today. The Kernahans are an intriguing family, and they seem to have a hidden past, that includes the estrangement of her father from them. Angele is seduced both by Ireland and two men creating a tangled situation of love that is hugely influenced by the past leading to what the blurb describes as "a tense and complicated situation".

Like O'Brien's other books, this novel is hugely atmospheric with a wealth of wonderful period detail and I really enjoyed reading it.

It's been published three times by Virago with each of the different sorts of green cover (but the copy I read was actually an Orange Penguin edition)

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Elizabeth Taylor Acquisitions

I've done rather well with Elizabeth Taylor over the last couple of weeks. Shortly before Easter, Sophie from Virago sent me the latest VMC, The soul of kindness (number 552) Virago are slowly reissuing the Elizabeth Taylor novels which I think is fantastic as they definitely deserve to reach a new audience. However, I am a big fan of the original green editions of the VMCs and am slowly acquiring a set of them - I spotted these two pristine books, Angel and Mrs Palfrey at the Claremount, two of her best works in my opionion, in Oxfam last week. I now have 5 of them; it will be a slow process to collect them as I am resisting buying them from Amazon, and just looking out for them in charity shops. Finally, I did treat myself with some birthday money to the 30th Anniversary hardback of A game of hide and seek. Lovely!

I have already read all of Taylor's books, so I am not quite sure about how I will blog about them, but I am looking forward to having a look at all of the different covers used.

(I have acquired some other VMCs since I last did an Acquisitions post, which you can read about on my other blog here...)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Three sisters (Sinclair) 74

Kindly lent to me by Simon T from Stuck in a Book, it turned out that I had actually already read Three sisters by May Sinclair, before embarking on this challenge. But it is such an intriguing and well written read that I actually sat down and enjoyed reading it again!

In a setting very similar to that of the Bronte's in Haworth, the book tells the story of three sisters, Mary, Gwenda and Ally who live with their unpleasant vicar father in a rectory. It is a desolate existence in the Yorkshire village of Garth with nothing much to look forward to:
" "Is it ten yet?" "No". Mary smile, but the word shuddered in her throat like a weary moan. "How long?" "Forty-three minutes" "Oh, Lord...." Gwenda laughed the laugh of brave nerves tortured. From her sofa beyond the table Alice sighed. At ten o'clock Essy Gale, the maid-servant, would come in from the kitchen and the Vicar from the inner room. And Essy would put the Bible and Prayer-book on the table, and the Vicar would read Prayers. That was all they were waiting for. It was all that could happen. It happened every night at ten o'clock".

But the sisters all have dreams, predominantly centring around finding a husband since that seems to be the only means of escape from constant service in Sunday schools and daily prayers. When an eligible young man, the new doctor, Steven Rowcliffe arrives in the village. Of course all three of the sisters are interested in attracting his attention, to the extent that one makes herself physically ill. It's certainly not a light-hearted "search for a husband Jane Austen-esque" read.

It's an extremely powerful novel, and having read May Oliver: a life, I am now looking forward to the other Sinclair VMC, which is The life and death of Harriet Frean.

It's just been published once by Virago with an original green cover.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Bobbin up (Hewett) 172

Bobbin up, by Dorothy Hewett, turned out to be a rather successful random ebay purchase. I often look through the ebay listings for Virago Modern Classics and pick titles that I haven't heard of if they don't cost too much money, and this was one of those. Apparently out of print for many years before Virago republished this, this is certainly an unknown book that deserves to be much better known.

Set in Sydney, in the 1950s, whilst the Russians are starting to fly Sputnik, this tale of working class lives and factory girls is very reminiscent of Nell Dunn's Poor Cow and Up the junction. Only its Sydney setting gives it a different edge of interest. The women in the story work at the Jumbuck Woollen Mills, with deplorable working conditions and incredibly frustrating existence. There's not so much story as description and character study but it puts together a fantastic portrait of a group of women desperate for a better existence.

Hewett became involved in the Communist Party in Sydney when she arrived in the city in 1949. She asked to be sent to a job in the worst type of factory possible and was sent to the Alexandria Spinning Wheels which provided the model for the Jumbuck Mill. The character of Nell in the story, an active communist, is heavily based on Hewett herself, and the other characters in the story are based on the people that she met there.

There is an interesting interview with Hewett here, which touches on Bobbin Up.

It's only been published once by Virago, with an early green cover.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The little Ottleys (Leverson) 98

I stumbled upon The little Ottleys in Oxfam a while ago, not realising that it contained a trilogy of novels by Ada Leverson, the first of which, Love's Shadow, was republished by Bloomsbury in their Bloomsbury Group collection of books last year, and which I had already read (and not hugely enjoyed). But I did get on and read my way through the rest of it.

The trilogy is concerned with the characters Edith and Bruce, and their marriage. We meet them fairly newly married, in the first book, and then follow their life together, which involves affairs and the realisation that perhaps their marriage isn't all they hoped for. Leverson's writing is humorous, particularly in the first book, with more than a little bit of farce, but somehow I didn't feel it really worked.

Just published once by Virago with an original green cover.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The ice house (Bawden) 381

Another lovely Bawden novel; if I'm honest, they're getting a little samey, but I'm still enjoying working my way through them as they are reliably good reads. The ice house starts with a friendship made at school between Ruth and Daisy; they come from different backgrounds but establish a relationship that will last for the rest of their lives. The story quickly moves on to their adulthood, and we rejoin the pair shortly after Daisy's husband has committed suicide. This triggers much change in the women's lives and sees them addressing what they both thought to be certain. It's only been published once, in the green italicised format.

I've only got two more Bawdens to read out of her VMCs (Afternoon of a good woman and The grain of truth), but I should also mention that I read Devil by the sea before starting on the VVV challenge, so I shall share its cover here, and consider it included in the VVV - it's just been published once and I had this copy from the library.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Clash (Wilkinson) 313

"Joan had not a great voice. With so slight a frame that would not have been possible, but she knew how to use what she had. Her enunciation was clear. Every word finished with a click. The musical timbre of her voice made her clearly audible through the hall. The men and women hung on her words. Briefly, impressively, she told the well-known story of the muddle of the mines - the profits in wartime, the sudden decontrol in 1921, the disastrous lock-out and long struggle, the loss of Continental markets, muddle and waste at home - the 1925 Budget which made further reductions was familiar enough in its details to her audience, but as she told it, the case was terrible".

Joan, the main heroine of Clash, is a trade union organizer, heavily involved in the 1926 General Strike. The book follows her through the week of the strike and afterwards, and gives a wonderful insight into the events from a young, female, radical perspective. Ellen Wilkinson, the author, was herself one of the first female trade union organisers and obviously drew greatly on her experience to write this novel. But it's not just a novel about politics - a thread of the story deals with Joan's personal life and the conflict she has in choosing between two men who are interested in her - the one who wants her to give up politics and the one who is happy to wait for her.

The introduction gives more information about Ellen Wilkinson's life - she sounds like a fascinating person and I must seek out a proper biography.

It's just been published once by Virago, with this incredibly striking cover image. I was kindly lent a copy by Simon from Stuck in a book.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Cover nomenclature

I often talk in my posts about "original" green covers, and "italic" green covers, and thought that it was time to draw up a little schema of the different types of green covers, and give them a standard name to make my blog a little more scientific!

1. The original green cover. This is characterised by the characteristic green top 1/3 of the cover, with title and author in a distinctive white font, separated by white lines under a lime green "Virago Modern Classics" heading. No green apple on the front, just on the spine. This is the holy grail of Virago Modern Classics of which every VMC collector seeks out! Whilst it would be lovely to own a complete set of original green covers, not all of the VMCs by any means were published in this style.

There is a slight variant on this cover, with a different style of font:
2. The italic green cover. The cover is characterised by a green background to the top 1/3 of the cover upon which the title, author, and Virago modern classics is written in white, italic writing.
3. The modern green cover. This is characterised by a small green stripe down the left hand side of the cover with a red apple in the top left hand corner.

4. Classics covers. I noticed that the Jane Austen and Bronte Virago Modern Classics (and possibly others too that I have not yet come across) have this distinctive design. This is characterised by a green border all the way around, with white decoration and type.

5. Dial Press Covers. Although not part of the green covers, readers should be aware that many Virago books were published in America by the Dial Press, and often have the same picture as the original green edition, but with a black background.
6. Penguin editions. It's worth mentioning that Penguin published a number of the Virago modern classics in Australia and the US - they are original green editions, but have a Penguin emblem on the spine and cover in place of the apple. This was discussed earlier on my blog here and has also been discussed on

7. And then obviously there are the huge array of modern editions. I like the way that these are so completely different, although Virago use similar styles for each author. The Daphne Du Maurier covers and Antonia White ones are especial favourites, and the new Barbara Pym and Muriel Sparks are extremely jolly and colourful.

8. Finally there are the 30th Anniversary Hardbacks, issued in 2008 to celebrate 30 years of Virago, such as Valley of the dolls by Susann. I covet the complete set of these, and own four.

Have I missed anything?