Virago Reading Week: Round Up #5

So Friday has come and gone and there’s only the weekend left for Virago Reading Week. Hopefully this will give us all some free time to finish more great books! I finished Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim last night, a Virago favourite and one I can recommend very highly, I’ll review it soon. Today I’ve been trying to rest to clear up my cold and the sinus headaches, so not much reading was accomplished, but I’m also working on Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann and definitely enjoying her beautiful, sensual writing. I’m loving the feminist discussions and excitement of this week, but also wanting to read something a bit more cosy while I’m sick, any recommendations?

Many more great reviews today, including…

Bina at If You Can Read This reviews The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter, one of the more modern Viragos. Angela Carter had a strong role in the development of Virago, editing some of their collections, including Wayward Girls and Wicked Women, so she’s definitely one to check out! Bina says “What I also loved was Carter’s ability to create such atmospheric prose. It’s nearly lyrical in places but never too flowery or merely decorative” and that it explores “aspects of power relations, gender and those dark and twisty instances of magical realism”, although she wishes they were even more pronounced! I’ve just got a copy of this book, so I look forward to exploring it soon.

Thomas at My Porch lost power for 31 hours and so hasn’t been able to keep up with everyone’s reviews, although it did give him more reading time! He’s also generously offering a free copy of The Lost Traveler by Antonia White (there will be a random draw from anyone who comments), since he discovered he has two of them.

Karen of the delicious Books & Chocolate has continued the Willa Cather love with a review of The Professor’s House, although she says it left her undecided because it seemed like two different books, covering “the Professor’s dissatisfaction [with retiring], sibling rivalry, how money changes people” in a fairly short book. As usual, Cather’s writing is praised, “her descriptions are just beautiful, without being long-winded and flowery.”

The quotes and photos at Flowers & Stripes continue to hit the spot, this time featuring the theme of love, appropriately enough from Love by Elizabeth von Arnim.

JoAnn at Lakeside Musing reminds us that today is Colette’s birthday and includes an interesting short biography of hers. Virago has published one lesser known title by her, The Other Woman. (It was also Virginia Woolf’s birthday on Tuesday, January 25, although Woolf is not a Virago author, she is certainly one of the best known examples of the kind of writing they wanted to publish.)

Old English Rose reviews the book we’re all likely to be reading soon, Winifred Holtby’s South Riding. She says her reading experience “was less like reading a book and more like suddenly finding myself living in Yorkshire again.” She adds “It is testament to Winifred Holtby’s writing skill that she manages to create such a wide variety of characters with equal authenticity.”

There have been several reviews of the popular E.M. Delafield’s novels, including The Way Things Are at roses over the cottage door, she says this portrayal of a ’20s marriage is not “shiny and stylish” but she “loved this story for its perfect blend of humour, reality, conflict and compassion and highly recommend it.” Thank Heaven Fasting has also been reviewed by Danielle at A Work in Progress, which covers the theme of young women raised only to marry well (or be persecuted forever by their mothers!)

Teresa at Shelf Love has written about a rarer title, Spinster by Sylvia Ashton-Warner (not to be confused with Sylvia Townsend Warner, as I originally did!), saying that unfortunately the main character “is the embodiment of almost every unpleasant stereotype I can think of about spinsters. As a never-married woman approaching 40, I was hoping this book would be a celebration of what a spinster’s life can be or, failing that, a serious examination of some of the trials of the solitary life.” She adds that the author was married but chose to write (condescendingly it seems) from the perspective of an unmarried teacher. At least we can celebrate that women now don’t have to marry to have a great life!

Verity of Verity’s Virago Venture (your one stop Virago recommending shop!) has reviewed yet another book, Zoe by Geraldine Jewsbury. It covers doubts about the priesthood, illegitimacy, marriage and Verity says she’ll be on the lookout for more books by this author.

Alex at Luvvie’s Musings has a post today about what makes her smile, which of course includes Virago books! She’s also included a photo of F. Tennyson Jesse’s The Lacquer Lady and I’m definitely looking forward to a review of that.

Lyn at I Prefer Reading has reviewed The Squire by Enid Bagnold, which is about the interior life of a new mother, giving birth and breastfeeding, bonding with the baby, dealing with the family, showing the mother quietly reigning supreme, “more a documentary or a slice of life than a novel.” She’s also shared pictures of her Virago collection here.

Simon at Stuck in a Book has written enticingly about five of his favourite Viragos (including one that’s also a Persephone now, A Very Great Profession by Nicola Beauman, which I’d love to read!) and includes some of his favourite covers and a list of all the Viragos he’s read.

And speaking of Persephones, here’s a related review of A Woman’s Place: 1910-1975 by Ruth Adam at A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore, which covers women’s social history and references many Virago authors, including Vera Brittain, Sheila Kaye-Smith, Edith Hull, Vita Sackville-West, Violet Trefusis, Rosamund Lehmann, Radclyffe Hall, and EM Delafield. Another good resource!

I’m off to bed now, while my husband watches Double Indemnity — he’s becoming keen on the early 20th century too, but from the American side of things.

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14 thoughts on “Virago Reading Week: Round Up #5

  1. Cristina says:

    Another great post! So sad that there are only two more days left! For a cosy read, I would suggest the Barbara Pym that I just read this week, ‘Excellent Women’. It has a cosy air about it and sprinklings of subtle humour.

    • Carolyn says:

      I think I started at the wrong place with Pym, at Quartet in Autumn, which is one of her last books I think. I found it sad and rather bitter, but there are so many fans of hers I’ll have to try again with some of the earlier books. What fun to have so many more good books to go!

  2. Darlene says:

    A lovely cosy read is Pym’s, No Fond Return of Love. We were in Stratford one day and the owner of a bookshop said his mother thought Pym’s books were like ‘a cosy brown sweater’. I don’t know why ‘brown’ specifically but there you have it!

    Feel better soon, Carolyn!

  3. Teresa says:

    Even if my own VMC wasn’t such a success, it’s been such fun to read everyone’s posts this week. Thanks so much for organizing!

    I will be giving away my copy of Spinster on my post tomorrow (Sunday). I didn’t like it, but perhaps others will–and it’s an out-of-print green-spined Virago, which may interest the Virago collectors.

  4. Virginia says:

    Carolyn, I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. I’ll second Elizabeth Roberts recommendation of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It’s a very cozy VMC about a teenage girl living with her eccentric family in a castle in England. It’s fun and whimsical but goes deeper than you think it will at first.

    • Carolyn says:

      I do have a copy and know everyone keeps raving about it, somehow I’m always reluctant to begin… I’ll have to give it a go soon. (And so nice to see you here, Virginia! I need to get motivated and join LibraryThing so I can come and chat you the Virago group there!)

      • Virginia says:

        You really should give I Capture the Castle a go. It’s such a lovely book. And yes, you should join LibraryThing; sounds like a plan. 🙂

  5. Lyn says:

    Sorry you’re not feeling well. The Provincial Lady is one of my favourite comfort reads, along with Barbara Pym – Excellent Women, Glass of Blessings or Some Tame Gazelle.

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