I have been reading Viragos for a number of years now. Some Virago authors I have long been familiar with, and have not necessarily read in their green appled livery, and others I came across purely by spotting their names written on those distinctive green spines, and so, without Virago, I probably never would have read them at all. This is the beauty of Virago; from the household names of Jane Austen and the Brontes, to the more obscure interwar novelists such as Storm Jameson, Elizabeth Taylor, Rose Macauley and Mollie Panter-Downes, there really is someone for everyone, and the vast majority I’ve read have been totally, completely, fantastic. Choosing a favourite, therefore, is a very difficult task, so wide and varied and wonderful are the options to pick from.
Therefore I’m not going to choose one favourite, but three. This is because I am co-hosting this week, and I can make up the rules! Ha!
So, without further ado, my favourite Viragos…..
I know everyone hates me when I talk about this book, because it is so difficult to find at a reasonable price. All I can do is apologise, and say that the reason I talk about it so much, is that by talking about and making other people read it, I hope to show Virago that there IS a demand for it, and encourage them to reprint it. So. You know what to do if I’ve convinced you to read it – Email! Petition! Let’s get this back in print!
Here’s my thoughts on it:
Read it, please, if you can! You can find cheap copies now and again, and I make it my mission to snap up copies wherever I see them, and send them to unsuspecting people – so if you love the sound of it, let me know, and I’ll put you on my Illyrian Spring gifting list!
This is still in print, and an absolutely beautiful story about a day in the life of Laura and Stephen, a married, middle class couple, who are trying to rebuild their lives after WWII. It is poignant, touching and incredibly powerful, and Mollie Panter-Downes’ portrayal of the shattering effects of war and the pain so many ordinary people had to face is the most moving I’ve ever read. Aside from seeing how England and its people changed post-war, it’s also a stunning paeon to the beauty of the English countryside, and the exquisite descriptions of the landscape around Laura and Stephen’s country village took my breath away. Mollie Panter-Downes’ use of language is really so skillful, and your heart will ache for Laura and Stephen’s pain at losing almost everything they hold dear. The essential message, however, is of hope, and freedom, and joy in having the constant fear of war lifted from the horizons of life. If you haven’t read it, you must. It was my favourite book of 2010, and I already can’t wait to read it again.
Oh! What a profoundly, heartwrenchingly moving book this is. Mary Jocelyn, the Rector’s daughter of the title, is a middle aged spinster, living a quiet, useful life with her father in a dull and uneventful village. Intelligent and passionate, her solitude has made her awkward in company, and she has few friends and few outlets for her creativity or emotions. When she finally meets someone who understands her, and loves her, it seems that all will be well, but Mary’s hopes are cruelly dashed, and this lovely, misunderstood woman must retreat back to her life of shadows, never finding the fulfillment her heart longs for. It sounds unbearably sad, and it times, it is, but it’s also such a fantastically written book that I can’t not urge you to read it despite this. It is an absolute classic, and a crime that it’s not more widely read. This is also currently in print by Virago so do snap it up if you haven’t already.
So these are my favourites, but what are yours? There will be a MYSTERY VIRAGO BOOK for the person who convinces me that their favourite Virago is most worth reading, so get your answers coming in!