Hurrah! Virago Reading Week will officially commence on Monday 24th January and finish on Sunday 30th January.
Many of you have already expressed interest and Carolyn and I both hope that there will be a good crowd joining us. You don’t need to ‘sign up’ to participate; just choose your books (or book, if you’ll only have time to read one!) and get ready to write about them! We’ll let you know more about how things will work nearer the time (as we may not have figured that part out yet ;)), but I can announce that there will be prizes thanks to Virago, so get excited!
If you’re reading this and wondering what the goodness I am on about, then, just for you, I shall explain. Virago Press started in the 1970’s, as a vehicle to publish fiction and non fiction by women (and later, some men, writing about women). Unlike the similar Persephone press, they also publish new fiction alongside resurrecting work that has long been out of print. The imprint of most interest to many is the Virago Modern Classics, which are mainly reprints of unjustly neglected fiction by a variety of female authors from the 1700s to the present day, writing from a myriad of different historical and cultural viewpoints. Unfortunately many of the Virago Modern Classics are now out of print themselves, but they are widely available second hand, and are to be identified by their distinctive green spines and decorative covers, or black spines and decorative covers if you buy the American versions.
What I love about them is the sheer scope of their list, and how many exciting discoveries you can make within it. There is a book to choose for every interest, and every mood, from Victorian Sensation Fiction to cosy interwar domesticity, hilarious social commentary to depictions of serious modern issues. They are truly windows into women’s lives and how they have changed throughout the turbulent centuries of our modern times. I can discover the life of a 19th century farmer’s daughter in Australia, or that of a pampered society belle in 1920’s London. I can read of the passion of a suffragette, and of a new wave feminist. I can read authors that are familiar, and others whose one hit wonders fell through the cracks of publishing history. In short, if you’re interested in women’s writing or history, you’d be interested in Virago Modern Classics. Most of my favourite female authors have been published in the Virago imprint; Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Rosamond Lehmann, Elizabeth Von Arnim, E M Delafield, F M Mayor, Margaret Atwood; even my most recent discovery, Marilynne Robinson, to name just a few. There is so much to discover, and if you go here you will find a complete list of Virago Modern Classics, compiled by members of the wonderful Virago Modern Classics group on Librarything. Carolyn, bless her heart, is working on a list alphabetised by author to make things easier, though seeing as both of us have a lot on our plates at the moment, I’m not entirely sure if we’ll get it finished on time. If not, the Librarything list is still very easy to navigate.
So, I wish you much happiness in perusing the list and choosing your titles. Personally, I will be having a Willa Cather fest and reading my way through O, Pioneers! and My Antonia, which I am very much looking forward to. If I get the time, I’ll sneak in The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton, but I won’t hold my breath! I am so excited to be co-hosting this week with Carolyn and I hope it will bring some literary spark to what is usually a rather dull month!