Virago Reading Week Starts Tomorrow!!

Virago Reading Week starts tomorrow!

Carolyn and I have both been overwhelmed by the levels of interest and excitement surrounding the week, and we are so looking forward to hosting what we hope will be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

How is it going to work? Well, Carolyn and I are going to take it in turns to do a ’round up’ every evening of the posts of the day. All you need to do is read, post, and link to both of our blogs, and then we should be able to see what you’ve written and link to you in the day’s round up post. If you don’t have a blog, but still want us to feature your thoughts, just email and let us know, or post a comment on either of our blogs. If we’ve missed your post, do the same, and we’ll make sure you get a mention!

We will be reading Virago books too, and posting our own reviews, as well as general posts about Virago and women authors, and asking you some questions to get you pondering about your reading. There are going to be five mystery Virago Modern Classics to be awarded as prizes throughout the week, and we’ll announce these competition categories as we go along. It’s all going to be very relaxed and organic, because that’s the way Carolyn and I both work, so there are no rules and no guidelines and nothing specific anyone needs to feel pressured to do! This week is all about having FUN – allowing ourselves to expand our reading horizons, explore the topics of female and feminist writing, and enjoy dipping into the backlist of a fantastic and diverse publishing house. I can’t wait to get started, and I hope that many of you will have a wonderful time reading Viragos this week!

If you have any questions or anything is unclear, please let either one of us know and we’ll do our best to clarify for you! I look forward to meeting some new faces this week, to reading some fantastic reviews, and to being introduced to some new authors. Let Virago Reading Week commence!

Edited to add: Thomas at My Porch has made a fantastic button for us all to use – thank you Thomas!


  1. So, the same format as Persephone Reading Week excluding the books?!

    I have long-suffering internet issues but shall try to blog over the week.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yes, I suppose so! You and Verity have paved the way for us in your excellent organisation!

      Internet issues are a pain – I hope you manage to blog as I am sure you would have many fascinating things to say!

  2. So looking forward to it. I’ve just finished Frost in May on my journey home this evening. A technical question – when you say ‘link to both our posts’ that just means leaving a comment or the way I did it for today’s post? Happy Virago Reading week.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I’m so glad to hear it! Fantastic – I look forward to your thoughts. When I say link I mean put a hyperlink to our blogs in your post – that way it will come up on our google readers and we’ll know that you mentioned us! Thank you for your enthusiasm!

  3. I’m ready. And I created a graphic button for the week. If anyone wants to use it, hop on over to My Porch.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Great! Thanks so much for the amazing button Thomas!!

  4. I’m so excited that this week is finally here (or almost here)! I can’t wait to see what Viragos everyone else is reading!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Me too! Though I am beginning to wonder what I’ve let myself in for! 😉 Me either – I hope you enjoy the week and thank you for your enthusiasm!

  5. Carolyn says:

    Hooray, we finally have a button! Now I just need to reply to your email about organizing everything…

    1. bookssnob says:

      I know! Such a pretty one, too!

      No pressure Carolyn! It’s all very relaxed and organic over here! 😉

  6. Teresa says:

    Oh my! I completely let time get away from me. I knew Virago week was the last week in January, but somehow missed the fact that this coming week is the last week in January! Good timing, though, as I’ve just finished a book and haven’t started my next. So I can start on Spinster by Sylvia Ashton-Warner today.

    1. bookssnob says:

      January has gone so quickly, hasn’t it?! Frighteningly so! I’m glad that you’ll still be able to join in, though – I’m fascinated by the book you’ve chosen and can’t wait to read about it!

      1. Teresa says:

        I’m sorry to report that Spinster is not going well for me at all. I may actually end up abandoning it 😦 . I will not, however, abandon Viragos, even if this book doesn’t work out for me.

      2. bookssnob says:

        Oh no, Teresa! I hate it when that happens. I hope it gets better!!

  7. Alex says:

    Hooray! I have a great pile of Viragos to read and shall endeavour to finish reading “I Will Not Serve” by Eveline Mahyere first….

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hello Alex! So glad that you will be joining us and reading such an interesting book too. I have been intrigued by that since reading about it on Verity’s Virago blog.

  8. Katherine says:

    I’m looking forward to participating as well, although I won’t be as into it. I’m currently reading Devoted Ladies and do hope to post something Virago-related this week. Happy reading to everyone!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Well we all have busy lives, Katherine – I understand! It will be lovely to have you at any level you have time to participate at and I hope you enjoy the Molly Keane – I must read more of her.

  9. EllenB says:

    This is just what I need to get me into those many many unread Viragos on my TBR bookcase. Virago Reading Week coordinates perfectly with Ellen is Now Retired Week!! I’ll be emailing later, Rachel, probably tomorrow. There is so much to do, what with applying for unemployment, signing up for the old lady cheaper Metrocard, knitting and having Housing Works pick up 17 boxes of book donations.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I’m glad Carolyn and I have given you a good excuse to get reading, Ellen, and hopefully it will help to ease you into temporary retirement! Look forward to hearing from you and hopefully getting to meet up soon – I have missed you. Old lady cheap metrocard = jealous. I still scowl every time I have to spend $2.25 on going ten blocks!

  10. rochesterreader says:

    Hi! Good to visit your blog again and I hope that you are well 🙂 What a lovely idea the Virago Reading Week is! I hope to be joining you all by starting on my first Pym – ‘Excellent Women’ and will hopefully have time to start on one of my favourite authors – Elizabeth Taylor’s ‘The Wedding Group’.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hello! It’s lovely to see YOU posting and around again, and I hope that things will soon start to be on the up for you. I am very well thank you, and excited to be co hosting such a lovely and collaborative week that has had such an overwhelming response. It’s just so wonderful! I look forward to reading your reviews and I do hope you enjoy the books you choose. Pym and Taylor are both excellent!

  11. Hooray! I’m ready to go! I’m starting out with The Lost Traveller by Antonia White. I adored Frost in May.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Fantastic! The Lost Traveller is very good, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. For some reason I never moved onto the last two books and wish I had. I’ll now have to reread the first two before I make it to the last two!

  12. Frances says:

    Beautiful button! Put two books aside for this week in case I can fit it in, but even if I can’t, I know I will love reading all the great posts, all the new reading suggestions. Thanks for organizing!

    1. bookssnob says:

      I know, Thomas did such a great job on that! These techno savvy people have all my envy! I hope you will be able to join in Frances, but even if not, I hope you have a lovely time reading along!

  13. Chrissy says:

    I’m reading Excellent Women for the first time and re-reading two of my favourite Rosamond Lehmann titles: Invitation to the Waltz and The Weather in the Streets (can’t read one without the other).
    Hankies at the ready! We’re in for a week of bliss.

    Trying hard to transfer the Virago button to my blog.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Chrissy! So glad to see you joining in. Rosamond Lehmann is a favourite of mine but I haven’t read those two yet so I look forward to reading your thoughts! Loved the photos over on your blog!

  14. Ohhh I am very excited about Virago Reading Week – my it has come up quickly – the end of January already?! I am still in the world of the Little House books, so as a companion of pioneer life I am planning on joining you in reading some Willa Cather (provided that any of my copies of O Pioneers and My Antonia that I ordered have found their way to me on time!).

    1. bookssnob says:

      Good good! I know – this month has sped by far too fast! Well it sounds like we’re having an identical reading experience – I too am reading the Little House books alongside Cather so I am looking forward to your thoughts very much!

  15. Thanks to the two of you for organising this! I’ve been excited about it for weeks and I’m looking forward to diving into ‘South Riding’ which I’ve been saving specially for the occasion. I can’t wait to see what everyone else reads too; I bet my wishlist is going to grow exceedingly fat this week.

    1. bookssnob says:

      You are so welcome, and thank you for joining in! It’s a pleasure to have you! Oh South Riding – I so long to read that! I will get around to it one of these days. I look forward to reading your thoughts, and I suspect that my TBR pile will grow massively this week too!

  16. motheretc says:

    This is my first experiment in communal reading, and I’m very happy to be taking part! I just started the Knight of Cheerful Countenance on the subway this morning and am enjoying it so far.

    1. bookssnob says:

      We are very glad to have you taking part! It’s lovely to meet you and I hope you continue to enjoy The Knight of Cheerful Countenance – I have thoroughly enjoyed every Molly Keane I’ve read and think she is a wonderful discovery!

  17. Darlene says:

    Thomas did a brilliant job, love the button!

    This is going to be such a fun week and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new faces as well. It goes without saying that Virago Reading Week will also be the cause of a new book or two being added to my tbr list.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I know – that button is amazing! I wish I were so good with computers!

      I am so glad that you will be joining in and are looking forward to it, Darlene! I am excited to read your thoughts on your Delafield, and to see what books end up taking your fancy!

  18. Mae says:

    Oh, I wish it was longer than 1 week! I might be able to squeeze in one Virago read this week although I am ploughing through a chunkster…

    Is your header picture by Edward Hopper? I love his style so much.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Well, you can always continue reading Viragos once the official week is over, Mae! 😉 I think I will!

      I hope you’ll be able to join in, but don’t push yourself!!

      It is indeed – one of his most famous. I love Edward Hopper too – he’s such an atmospheric painter. His pictures say so much without saying anything at all, if you know what I mean.

  19. heather says:

    Inspired by your virago reading week in january and seeing an entire shelf full of unread green-spined beauties, I decided to make january my all virago all the time reading month.
    I have read 5 so far:
    One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes…A lovely portrait of post war England.
    The Loved and Envied by Enid Bagnold…Could not make myself care for the characters, but stuck it through to the end of the odd little story.
    Women Against Men by Storm Jameson…I found these three novels of women and the men in their life particularly striking.
    Loving Without Tears by Molly Keane (M.J.Farrell)…This was my third novel by Molly Keane. My first being Devoted Ladies which I absolutely hated. Truly. My second was The Rising Tide and I was pleasantly surprised. And so, it was with much trepidation that I approached this third novel by her. I found her characters well done all round and the story intriguing and charming. Perhaps Ms. Keane and I just got off on the wrong foot? Makes me want to give Devoted Ladies another chance.
    Mr. Fortune’s Maggot…Now I always struggle when a book is solely devoted to the characters of men and there is not a woman in sight, or if there is, it’s only a brief glance at a woman. This one, while I didn’t love it, kept my interest throughout and I found the characters strange and wonderful in their own way.
    And now I have started reading A Stricken Field by Martha Gellhorn…having only just started, I can’t say much about it (not that I do anyway) other than it is war time Prague. And I am anxious to discover Martha’s writing in her own right instead of always thinking of her as one of Hemingway’s wives.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Heather! Lovely to hear from you!

      You HAVE been reading! What wonderful choices. One Fine Day is divine and I’m so glad you agree! I found The Loved and Envied a little odd, I have to admit, and far preferred The Squire. Have you read that?
      I’ve never read any Storm Jameson and I would be interested in reading more about her. I think I had one of her books once, but it was the third in a trilogy I didn’t have the first two books of, so I think I gave it away to another Virago fan.
      I LOVE Molly Keane but haven’t read Loving Without Tears – I’m sure it’s in my Virago stash somewhere though. I know a lot of people find Molly Keane hit and miss but I haven’t hit a dud yet – I love her writing style. I’m glad you enjoyed this one!
      Haven’t read any Sylvia Townsend Warner either so I’m interested by what you say about Mr Fortune’s Maggot…there is so much I have left to read!
      I have never heard of Martha Gellhorn but wartime Prague sounds fascinating – come back and tell me more when you’ve finished please!

      You are a Virago reading inspiration, Heather!

  20. Virginia says:

    I’m very excited to hear about new books that I haven’t read and hear other’s views on books I’ve already experienced. Since learning of VMCs last year, they’ve opened up a whole new world to me of books I’d never experienced before.

    One of the things I like about Virago is that they don’t always publish feminist books. I read recently The Clever Woman of the Family by Charlotte Mary Yonge (sadly in a non-VMC edition), a very non-feminist work which describes a young woman who thinks she’s clever but is really opinionated and domineering who learns she must allow herself to be guided by men. Although I totally disagreed with Yonge’s premise, it gave me a view into the thinking of some nineteenth century women; it’s great to be able to gain understanding of viewpoints that aren’t my own. Also, it gave me insights into how limited the lives of Victorian women were. Rachel, the “clever” young woman, had no one to converse with on intellectual matters in her small community (which is the reason given why she became so domineering and opinionated), and it made me thankful that today we are able to gain an education as women and even have access to online communities like your blog and others where we can talk about books. VMCs are excellent sources for gaining greater understanding of where women have been in the past and how far we really have come.

    Thank you so much for doing this reading week, and I’m really looking forward to it.

    1. Virginia says:

      I should have said that Yonge’s premise is that Rachel had no male guidance or cultured society with which to converse and that’s why she’s so opinionated and domineering. (She did really hit the reader over the head with the idea that men must guide and direct women.) Regardless, the book made me very thankful for the educational opportunities I’ve had.

      1. bookssnob says:

        Hi Virginia! Thank you for a very insightful and interesting comment! I’ve never read any Charlotte M Yonge but I know of her as a very quintessential, and very prolific, Victorian woman writer, whose Christian beliefs very strongly influenced her work. I agree with you, and think it’s very good, that Virago publish work by all women of all different beliefs, backgrounds and viewpoints, as that demonstrates to us as modern day readers how diverse women’s lives have been, and that not all women considered themselves oppressed prior to the feminist movement.

        I am glad I’ve had the educational opportunities I have been offered too, but I also know many women of my age and a little older who can’t wait to give up working and stay home and be supported by their male partners. It’s interesting to me that some women can want to be fiercely independent, and others are happy to be dependent and assume a traditional role. We’re all different, and all of our life choices are perfectly valid! It’s encouraging that Virago can demonstrate the whole spectrum of female viewpoints through what they have chosen to publish.

      2. Virginia says:

        Yes, it is quite amazing that there are so many choices for women today. We can be full fledged career women, wives, mothers, or a combination. I know women in my own life who have chosen to stay at home with their children and are perfectly happy. At the same time, I’m glad that all women in the West are given an education today and do not have to be dependent upon men to make choices for them but can make choices for themselves, knowledgeably and intelligently. Thanks for your insights!

  21. JoAnn says:

    Let the fun begin… Thomas did an excellent job with the button. I love it!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yay! I know, he really did! I am so pleased!

  22. Oh, Rachel, this got away from me, I am sorry to say. The libraries here abouts don’t seem to carry Virago classics and I didn’t get any ordered, besides a week’s worth of meetings and appointments, so, realistically, I will likely not participate , BUT, will try to find a few of these Virago Classics and perhaps next year.

    In-the-meantime, I will read with delight all that each of your participants have to offer. Onward . . .

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh Penny, not to worry – I completely understand! I hope you will enjoy reading along with everyone’s posts anyway and hopefully you might get a few recommendations for the future!

  23. carolwallace says:

    Rachel, here’s a link to my blog post on “Frost in May.”
    If this makes more work for you let me know and I won’t do it for the next ones, OK?

    Say, while you are having New York City adventures, you might consider trekking up to the Hispanic Society in Washington Heights (157th St. on the #1 train). AMAZING Spanish paintings. If you like “Madame X” (and that incredible photo at the Met of the French soldiers drilling in Grand Palais!) I think you’d like the Sorolla paintings. Plus it’s always empty!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hello Carol! No, that makes life EASIER in fact so please do post when you have written something!

      Do you know, I had been planning on going up there and haven’t made it yet. Thank you for the reminder and the encouragement – I will make sure I go on up!

  24. Lisa Hill says:

    Hello, I’ve finished Mrs Miniver! I’ve kind of cheated though – I do have a good dozen Viragos on my bookshelves but I’ve read them all, and I hadn’t read Mrs M, which is on the Virago list, but my copy is a war-time original. Anyway, I’ve blogged it here at
    Lisa Hill, Melbourne, Australia

    1. bookssnob says:

      Loved your review, Lisa, and how lucky you were to find such an old copy! I am totally cheating and not reading Virago editions of the books I have chosen either so we are both cheats together!

      1. Lisa Hill says:

        Thanks for hosting, I’ve enjoyed this:)

  25. Margot says:

    I read Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark and just loved it. In all my reading of Cather over the years I somehow missed this one. Now, of course, it’s my favorite. Here’s my link:

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hello Margot! What a great review, and a fantastic author! Thanks so much for taking part, and I am so glad you found a new favourite book through Virago Reading Week!

  26. Margaret Powling says:

    Not visited before but taking part in this Virago-fest and reading, in anticpation of the BBC TV series soon to hit our screens, Winifred Holtby’s South Riding (a green VMC) which is so appropriate to today even though it was published (posthmously) 75 years ago. It is an absolute treat and my only quibble is that there are far too many character with must walk-on parts or even not that, they are simply referred to in passing by another character. But other than that, a great, great read.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hello Margaret! It’s lovely to see you and I hope you will continue to enjoy South Riding. I am yet to read it, but have read other Winifred Holtbys, and know just how excellent she is. I must make sure I get to it before I watch the mini series!

  27. Peggy McLean says:

    I’ve just finished Anderby Wold by Winifred Holtby. It’s certainly not South Riding or even Poor Caroline, but it is quite respectable and I enjoyed it. (It was her first book.) I don’t think I had any quarrels with *SR* at all! *AW* is much smaller in scope, but it does show flashes of Holtby’s brilliance.
    Now I’m about to jump into The Willow Cabin in my lovely, green VMC. That’s what happiness is!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Peggy! Thanks for coming over and for taking part! I am so glad you enjoyed Anderby Wold, even though it didn’t come up to the same par as South Riding. I’m interested to read your thoughts on The Willow Cabin! I’ve heard it’s very good. Happiness indeed is in a Virago!

  28. Lyn says:

    Here’s a link to my review of No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West. Thanks for hosting VRW, it’s a great idea.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Lyn! Great review!

  29. Jen says:

    I posted this on the Library Thing Virago Modern Classics group, but thought it might be nice to post it here, as well.

    I thought I’d make an effort to write a a few thoughts about my own personal Virago Reading Week so far. I don’t think it has any spoilers about South Riding, though it does mention a few specific things about characters. Here goes:

    I remember a description of Winifred Holtby describing her as being divided between devoting time to social and political issues and devoting time to writing novels. In South Riding, she bridged that divide, illustrating social issues while not perhaps giving answers for them, while creating a work of literary art. Perhaps it is that tension, the quality of division in character, that makes the characters and the action feel so human, what gives the novel its strong resonance. Its clarity of character interplay with social ideas is powerful, but the narrator never lets characters be caricatures. There is almost always a presentation of redeeming or mitigating qualities for characters, sometimes just when that character seemed on the edge of being undivided in focus and heading toward caricature (Alfred Huggins, Madame Hubbard, and Mavis Carne are some examples of that).

    The work is a model of writing a novel, showing how themes can be explored and illustrated in such differing ways through narrative action. It gives dramatic episodes, often very efficiently written so having poetic cadence and resonance, all which link into an overarching structure reflecting an agenda of local government. That allows the book to speak about social issues in a broad way while not ever presenting the issues in a theoretical way. Public Health, Mental Deficiency, and Housing and Town Planning are all addressed, but in so many facets and through so many characters that very little preaching by the omniscient narrator happens.

    I wish I could write this kind of book about my own home town. (Maybe it will kindle a fire of wanting and trying to do so….) It is critical of place and cultural heritage, dispassionate and not sentimental in familiarity, while loving and being rooted in it. One of the characters, Sarah Burton, by the end, feels a kinship with all the people of the community, and this, perhaps, is the impulse that brings one to care about local government, to care about social issues, to care about how others are treated and that they not be mistreated. The big, overriding issues ultimately are personal issues.

    So after finishing South Riding, I’m getting back into Travels in West Africa. I think the readings are actually complimentary to one another. Both address social concerns and perceptions, but Mary Kingsley seems to me quite unrooted in place, and goes out on adventures in search of important undocumented information and finds insight by observing previously unexperienced culture and lifeways.

    Read on, brave readers, read on!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Jen, thanks so much for this brilliant review! You’ve made me want to drop everything and pick up South Riding immediately!!!

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