Midweek @ Musings: Thank You, Virago Secret Santa!

The Virago Modern Classics Group on LibraryThing has a wonderful Virago Secret Santa tradition, now in its fifth year.  We begin with the metaphorical drawing of names from a hat, which of course is done virtually.  Then there is much chatter about selecting gifts, and mailing gifts, and gifts arriving in recipients’ mailboxes.  And finally, as always, the party begins with “opening day” on December 19.  Group members can choose to open their gifts later, and that’s good for all of us, because it just keeps the festivities going.  But I wasn’t about to wait. In fact, I cheated just a bit.

My gifts arrived last week all boxed up with a San Francisco book shop as the return address, and no clues about Santa’s identity. But the contents were lovely, all wrapped in bookish paper. I asked my Eldreth Pottery Redware Santas to keep watch until opening day:

I opened my gifts Tuesday night, pretending to live in Australia, where it was already Wednesday. I had to work Wednesday, and I didn’t want to rush in the morning! And no, I didn’t want to wait until evening either. The gift wrap is wonderful — each is a reproduction of a book jacket. I was very careful unwrapping so I could photograph the set:

So yes, those look like books but no! That’s just the wrapping paper! The contents were simply marvelous. Five books (the quantity alone astonished me), all by Virago authors, all well-loved by previous readers. Some are very old editions. All are books I’m very proud to have in my library.

Clockwise from top right:

  • Elizabeth Bowen’s The House in Paris, which I have been secretly coveting having seen it all over LT and blog-land this year.  It’s one of Rachel at Booksnob‘s Twelve Books of 2012.
  • Angela Thirkell’s Pomfret Towers, another author I’ve recently become aware of and thought I should discover sooner than later.
  • Molly Keane’s Time After Time, from one of my favorite Virago authors.
  • Elizabeth von Arnim’s Christopher and Columbus, a Doubleday edition from 1920!! Oh my goodness, it’s so delicate.
  • E. M. Delafield’s The Pelicans, published by Knopf in 1919. On the inside cover, the book’s first owner wrote simply “Berkeley, 1920”.  This book didn’t travel far to reach the San Francisco book shop.  I’m quite curious about its origins, and whether it ever traveled beyond the Bay Area.

Words fail me. My Santa was so generous, and so thoughtful, and so spot on in choosing books I will cherish. Santa, thank you so very much.

After unwrapping my gifts and exclaiming over each of them, just one secret remained: who gave me these lovely books?  The enclosed card only said, “from your Virago Secret Santa”.  I had to wait for my Santa to “check in” at the Virago Group and identify themselves as Lisa, aka booktruffler, who has been on a year-long Virago reading junket.  She has impeccable taste in books and I feel very lucky to have her as my Secret Santa this year.

Now I’m going to return to our online Christmas party and see what others have received.  Merry Christmas!

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16 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: Thank You, Virago Secret Santa!

  1. What a wonderful gift Laura and I love the idea of using covers as wrappers – makes it feel like two presents in one. Angela Thirkell should be interesting given its added connection to one of your other favourite reads of the year (Mr Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles).

    • Karen, I’m keen to learn more about the Barsetshire connection to Trollope. I’m just trying to decide whether I need to start with Thirkell’s first Barsetshire novel (Pomfret Towers is the fifth). Any opinion on that?

      • There is an Angela Thirkell qsociety and also a website which has some great resources including a list of all the references that she makes in her novels to other authors or to people Its at http://www.angelathirkellsociety.com/
        To your question … Pomfret is the third of her Barcetshire novels. The first was High Rising in which she sets out some of the plot lines for the following novels. But according to a friend who has read them you won’t be at a loss if you go straight to Pomfret.
        If you like her style then you have a treasure house awaiting since she wrote a book every year. So you have scores to choose from. Happy reading Laura.

  2. What wonderful presents, Laura, wrapped and unwrapped. I do enjoy our Secret Santas, especially this bit! I’ve noticed your Redware Santas in previous years’ photos – now I’m wondering how a Redware Santa would travel to the UK!

  3. ‘…pretending to live in Australia….’, you made me laugh, Laura! Such a gorgeous parcel and I am so envious of the EM Delafield – you lucky thing! Don’t leave The House in Paris too long as it’s stunning…well, Rachel, Simon and I think so and hopefully you do as well.

    • Thanks Darlene. Most of what I’ve read about Bowen’s writing has scared me off. The three of you are very much to blame for my enthusiasm about this book.

  4. Laura: the gift was nice, but I’m stuck on the wonderful Redware Santas you got there. Wow they’re neat, thanks for putting the link up. Perhaps they’d be perfect for someone in my family ….. it’s never too late right?

    • I love my Redware Santas! The shop is relatively local to me, and we’ve been buying their annual Santas for about 4 years. I’ll be picking up my 2012 Santa tomorrow. My husband also suggested we buy some of the older ones too … we’ll see! You may have noticed you can buy on-line too 🙂

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