Welcome to Virago Reading Week!
My little bird is playing second fiddle this week to Thomas‘ lovely button, promoting the first-ever Virago Reading Week. Hosted by Rachel and Carolyn, the idea is to read one or more Viragos and blog about them. There’s also a lively Virago Reading Week discussion on LibraryThing. Each day Carolyn or Rachel give a roundup of the day’s posts. It’s been great fun already.
I’ve blogged about my Virago collection before, here and here. But I’ve never mentioned what inspired me to collect and read Virago Modern Classics. In October, 2007 I spent a weekend with a wonderful group of women I’d gotten to know on LibraryThing. Some were avid Virago collectors, and their LibraryThing discussions had me a bit mystified: what are Viragos? Why collect them? Holy cow there are more than 500 of them, which ones are best? In short, what’s all the fuss? Well, as is often the case with bookish meet-ups, we had a little book swap. And those collectors made sure I came home with two VMCs: The Sugar House, and The Misses Mallett:
I soon learned that The Sugar House was the third book in the Frost in May Quartet. Of course I couldn’t very well read the third book without reading the first two … and so the hunt was on. About a month later, my husband and I paid a visit to a used bookshop and I left with seven Virago Modern Classics, including Frost in May (whew). I was really quite taken with the cover art, and with finding all these women authors I’d never heard of before.
Suddenly I had nine Virago Modern Classics and hadn’t read a single one. Oops. I felt a little foolish, but the situation was easily remedied. I decided to start with Frost in May, because it was the first VMC published back in 1978. It was interesting, but not wonderful, and I was afraid I’d been suckered into something (read my review of Frost in May). But then I read Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. It was touching, with wonderful well-drawn characters, and it made me think (read my review). That was the moment I became a fan. I’ve read more than 30 VMCs now, and have yet to be disappointed. I’ve discovered new authors, some of whom have become favorites.
Winifred Holtby is one of my new favorite authors, so it seems fitting to read her work during Virago Reading Week. I got an early start reading Anderby Wold, and finished it last night. It was an excellent first novel, hinting at the greatness shown in South Riding. I’ll publish a review soon. And now I have time to fit another Virago into the week. I’m going to read Mollie Panter-Downes’ One Fine Day, chosen because Rachel raved about it not long ago. And why not honor one of the Virago Reading Week founders by reading a book she loved?
So more about my Virago reads later. I hope you are enjoying Virago Reading Week as much as I am!