Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Crossriggs (Findlater) 203

I often wonder how it works when two people write a novel; you'd think that any sort of collaboration would be pretty obvious and you'd spot the different voices. The most recent VMC that I've read, Crossriggs, by Jane and Mary Findlater is a novel written in this way, but I certainly couldn't tell that it was written by two sisters.

Crossriggs is a small village near Edinburgh where the unmarried Alex Hope lives with her father. At the start of the book, her widowed sister Matilda returns to the family home with her 5 children. The sisters are very different - I wondered whether this might reflect the relationship that Jane and Mary had - Alex is independent, despite her spinster existence, whereas Matilda had obviously come to rely on her late husband and is rarely seen to voice her own opinions. It is a struggle to make ends meet - Mr Hope tries to instigate a vegetarian diet, but this does not go down well with the children, so Alex finds a job, reading aloud to a wealthy admiral in the village. Here she meets Van, the admiral's grandson, who takes a liking to Alex; she is oblivious however. The story that plays itself out is not predictable, and one of the things that I liked most about this book is that Alex is certainly not a typical spinster. She loves having the children around, and although it tires her out she is fully prepared to take on an additional job, teaching elocution in a school in the nearby town.

I really rather enjoyed this one - the Victorian setting was just right for this time of year. It's only been published once with an original green cover; I own a copy.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Virago cover lovers

If you're a Virago Modern Classic cover-lover, and if you're reading this, then it's likely that you are, then I just wanted to point out a lovely post by Lyn at I prefer reading on some of her favourite VMC covers (and she gives a very kind mention to this blog too)

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

An acquisition

Although I have stopped buying books online, and really tried hard over the last few months to resist buying books (in fact, resist buying anything!), I do still love looking out for Green Viragos in second hand bookshops. Luckily, one seems to see the same ones over and over again, and I have most of these, which is good for the financials, but occasionally one will spot something slightly rarer, and have to pounce. We went to Thame at the weekend, and I have picked up several VMCs in the Oxfam bookshop there before. I was very happy to spot a copy of The gypsy's baby by Rosamund Lehmann, which is a collection of her short stories. There are several VMC authors who I would love to own everything they wrote in original green, and Lehmann is one of them, although I have very few of them. I've realised that I never covered this book when I did a catch-up on Rosamund Lehmann early on in this challenge, so I can share the covers here for the first time - the original green one which I stumbled upon, and a modern green version.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Return of the soldier (West)

I was slightly surprised to recieve a new edition of The return of the soldier by Rebecca West in the mail - it is the latest Virago Modern Classic. It wasn't on the list of VMCs for 2010, but I think that the last one of 2010 has been delayed to 2011. I was also surprised when I put it on the shelf, as I already have a "modern" edition of the book (but sadly not the original green edition).

It's coming out next month, but it was timely to recieve it on Remembrance weekend. Nymeth wrote about it last week, and you can see my original post on it here. (It doesn't seem to have been given an additional VMC number though).

I am particularly looking forward to reading the new introduction by Sadie Jones, as she has written rather well on more recent conflict in Small wars.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The wedding group (Taylor)

I haven't written too much about Elizabeth Taylor on this blog, mainly because I had worked my way through her oeuvre at the start of my interest in VMCs, which was six months before I began this blog. But also partly because I was hoping to blog about her all in one go when I had collected all of her books in the original green editions - I think the Elizabeth Taylor green VMCs are among the best as they often feature gorgeous illustrations of flowers. I've got about 2/3s of them, and although I could easily buy the rest from Amazon, I'm preferring to look out for them in bookshops - it spreads the monetary burden and adds to the thrill of the chase.

But Virago have been bringing out new editions of her books over the last couple of years - striking and colourful paperbacks, even if they don't quite rival the charm and elegance of their predecessors, and as Sophie from Virago kindly sends me the new VMC releases, I recieved the latest new one a couple of weeks ago - The wedding group. As I'm finding rereading books comforting at this dark and dismal time of year, it didn't go straight on the bookshelf but found its way into my handbag to be read.

It's a somewhat mournful read - the main character Cressidy rebels against the Catholic community of her upbringing, runs away to London and falls in love with the journalist David. It's not a happy-ever-after story, and Cressidy as the "heroine" isn't exactly always likeable - she starts off as seemingly well meaning, adventurous and sweet, but quickly becomes irritating and annoying. Nicola Beaumann, whose biography of Taylor is well-worth reading, says this is Taylor's weakest novel - I see her point but still found it well worth rereading.

Onto the covers - I own both the original green version and the newest Virago edition, but it has been published with another cover too!

Monday, 1 November 2010

The ghost stories of Edith Wharton

Another Edith Wharton - they seem to be coming in swift succession, and yet I'm still to read the House of Mirth which I was given or Custom of the Country which I've been lent. Maybe it's turning into an Edith Wharton Autumn here on the VVV.

This time it is The ghost stories of Edith Wharton and they have won me over where her previous novels have failed. I was alerted to the existence of this book by Elaine from Random Jottings, and I swiftly orderd it from the library in order to have it in time for the Halloween weekend. I've been dipping in and out of it over the last few days and have to say that the stories are spooky and chilling, particularly the more that one thinks about them, and absolutely perfect for Halloween reading. My favourite was "All Souls", a creepy tale of mystery where an old woman wakes up and finds her house absolutely deserted, without explanation. When her servants later deny this - what is the mystery that occurred?

Edith Wharton cites Henry James' Turn of the Screw as a strong influence on her writing; although I have not read this novel, I know he is considered one of the leaders of the genre of ghost stories, and I can see that this has obviously filtered down to Wharton.

I LOVED these stories - they drew me in and I cared about the characters far more than in any of her novels. It's only been published once in a modern green Virago edition, and I would certainly buy a copy if I spotted it in a second hand bookshop!