All Virago, All August 2018

TalkVirago Modern Classics

Join LibraryThing to post.

All Virago, All August 2018

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Jul 29, 2018, 2:24am

We have an annual tradition on the VMC group of using the month of August to read, celebrate and share our thoughts on Virago books. It’s a chance to refocus on the green spines books we all love so much, and we extend this to include non Virago books by Virago authors and also Persephones.

August’s monthly read is Angela Thirkell and so no doubt many of us will be reading her work. However, I thought I would start a separate thread for us to share any other Virago or Persephone books we’re enjoying.

So do share any August reading of our favourite books and authors that you’ll be undertaking! 😁😁😁

Jul 29, 2018, 2:25am

Personally, I tend to try and tie my August Viragos in with Women in Translation month. So I shall be scouring my shelves to see what translated Viragos I have!

Jul 29, 2018, 10:34am

I hope to read a Molly Keane Virago in August, satisfying both this tradition and this year's Irish Author Challenge in the 75 Book Challenge group. Maybe I'll get to an Angela Thirkell's been too long since I read her.

Jul 29, 2018, 10:44am

I will join in with AV/AA but I shall also be joining in Women in Translation month, I don't have any books that suit both.

I am starting AV/AA with Open the Door by Catherine Carswell - I plan to start it tonight or tomorrow, and it will be accompanying me on a short coach holiday to Bruges.

Jul 29, 2018, 11:04am

Ooooh, Open The Door is great - my Middle Child (who you’ve met!) rated it highly too! Have a wonderful trip!

Jul 29, 2018, 3:14pm

Oh, I forgot about this! :) I might start with Losing Battles by Eudora Welty - I've been a Mississippian for 4 years now and haven't read any of the classic Mississippi writers (or, I'm ashamed to say, any Southern US writers except for Flannery O'Connor, as far as I can remember). Also interested in Naomi Mitchison, Stevie Smith, Dorothy Richardson, and Sylvia Townsend Warner.

>4 Heaven-Ali: Enjoy your trip! I've never been to Europe and Belgium is near the top of my travel wish list.

Jul 30, 2018, 8:40am

>2 kaggsy: >4 Heaven-Ali: There's Offside by Gisela Elsner which comes to mind right away. Very unVirago like, but fits your categories.

Jul 30, 2018, 9:54am

>7 SassyLassy: Ah, thank you! An excuse to buy another book! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

Aug 2, 2018, 2:48am

Exciting! I have a picture of my pile over on my blog and as they're supposed to be Books 12-19 on my 20 Books of Summer, I'm hoping I get through them all. No WIT for me, though, can't manage that as well!

Aug 2, 2018, 8:46am

I am using AV/AA to continue to read my Persephones. (I've read over 300 Viragos and really don't have many more I WANT to read, although I have been pleasantly surprised and even shocked by some I've had zero expectations of/for - which is correct? Of? For?) Anyway... I've started Making Conversation by Christine Longford, which I picked at random from my TBR pile. So far, very easy reading.

Aug 3, 2018, 5:45am

I've started Barren Ground by Ellen Glasgow, which is intriguing (if a bit fat) so far. I was bothered by a really bad attitude to black characters in Virginia, read a good few years ago, so hope this is better in that respect as I find that hard to read (even though I know it's of its time, etc., etc.)

Edited: Aug 3, 2018, 6:31am

I've picked No more than human off my Virago shelves.

Aug 3, 2018, 9:33am

I've reached Summer Half in Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire novels. I am trying to read them in order, although I don't have them all so may have to dot around after a while.

Aug 6, 2018, 4:45am

I finished No more than human this weekend, as I spent quite a bit of time on trains. It was a great read. It continues the adventures of Delia Scully, the young Irish woman who we met in Never no more. This sequel sees her becoming a governess in Spain - but her natural high spirits and naivety mean that she soon finds herself in trouble. Delia, strongly based on the author, is a delightful heroine, and the depiction of Spain in the early C20th is vivid and compelling. There is a section near the beginning about food which had my mouth watering! Highly recommended.

Now I've started August folly by Angela Thirkell.

Edited: Aug 6, 2018, 7:07am

>13 CDVicarage: I'm trying to read Thirkell in order as well, Kerry. I'm up to The Headmistress, which is what I plan for this month's author read. I have the next couple of books but then I'll need to start hunting used bookshops and websites.

Edited: Aug 6, 2018, 7:06pm

>5 kaggsy: >6 surtsey: thank you I had a lovely time in Belgium. I was in the Flanders region. Stayed in Bruges, did several things there, but also visited Ypres for the last post ceremony at the Menin gate. Stopped at a cemetery (there are hundreds) where there is a memorial to the In Flanders Field poet John Mcrae, visited Ghent and Ostend. Phew. It's a wonder I got any reading done.
I loved Open the Door!
My review is here.

Aug 7, 2018, 4:04am

>16 Heaven-Ali: Great review Ali! I need to move this up the tbr pile. I loved The camomile when I read it a few years ago.

Aug 7, 2018, 8:31am

I finished Making Conversation by Christine Longford. A pleasant nothing read. 2 stars.

Aug 9, 2018, 3:03am

I read Ellen Glasgow's Barren Ground and reviewed it on my blog - I've also finished Angela Thirkell's Summer Half but haven't reviewed it yet. I then accidentally started reading a book in a Vintage edition by Stella Gibbons, not sure if she's a Virago writer but she's not on my list for this month - d'oh!

Aug 9, 2018, 6:09am

>19 LyzzyBee: Nightingale Wood is a Virago, so Gibbons does qualify, even if she has upset your reading plan!

Aug 10, 2018, 8:29am

I started The World That Was Ours last year but never finished it. So I picked that up this week and finished it last night. Apartheid is never a fun read, so I won't say I loved the book. But it was a worthy read and I'm glad I got round to it again this year.

Aug 10, 2018, 11:47pm

My AV/AA reading will pretty much be Angela Thirkell for the August monthly author. If I have time, I may go back to some books I've missed by the earlier monthly authors. It's my first read of Thirkell, so I've started at the Barsetshire start with High Rising (3***), a fairly light book of humor, which I suspect is true of Thirkell generally. Light reading, not "literary immortality," and the plot is a bit contrived, but it serves its purpose of a humorous light-read.

I've got this one on Kindle, and my next will be the second Barsetshire installment, Wild Strawberries (also on Kindle). I've got five other Thirkells in treeware that I've picked up recently in used book stores. {Grrrr, I'm supposed to be finishing books I've already got, not buying more, but I'd never heard to Thirkell before and I do want to follow the monthly reads.}

Aug 11, 2018, 2:35am

I've read Summer Half, Pomfret Towers and The Brandons one after another. I don't have the next in the series and, much as I enjoyed them all, I think it's time for something different now.

Edited: Aug 11, 2018, 3:14am

Well I am reading The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers for women in translation month. However although not a VMC it is published by Virago. So I think I can claim it for AV/AA can't I?

Aug 12, 2018, 12:49pm

I'm well into Taking Chances by Molly Keane. It's a good story, if a bit over-burdened by long descriptions of fox hunting (none caught so far, it isn't that) that sort of goes over my head due to unfamiliar terms that I can't always sort out from the context.

Aug 12, 2018, 4:22pm

I have just obtained The Orchid House by Phyllis Shand Allfrey and am looking forward to reading it. I have read a bit about the author's life and it sounds fascinating. There are parallels between her background and that of Jean Rhys as both were born on the island of Dominica. Allfrey uses Dominica as the setting for her novel as did Jean Rhys with Wide Sargasso Sea.

Edited: Aug 12, 2018, 6:09pm

I read Sisters by a River by Barbara Comyns

Aug 13, 2018, 3:44am

Having been distracted by a number of books, I’m hoping to go off plan and start Clash by Ellen Wilkinson which I stumbled across in a charity shop this week.... 😁😁

Aug 13, 2018, 5:10am

Having finished and enjoyed August folly I'm now starting I'm not complaining. So far it's like a grittier Miss Read book.

Edited: Aug 14, 2018, 1:16am

I've read two Angela Thirkells, the first two (High Rising and Wild Strawberries, both in Kindle though published in VMC) in the Barsetshire series, for the August author read. It's my first reading for Thirkell and I think I'm going to let her go at that, though I've got a half-dozen of her later novels in treeware that I picked up in used book stores specifically for the August author read. She's not bad, but she's rather light and I think the later books may just be repetitively more-of-the-same. I'll probably get back to her later.

I'll probably use the rest of AV/AA for some more of Ali's Muriel Spark centenary read-a-thon, where I continue to make quite good progress. I'm just starting to flip through The Golden Fleece: Essays, but that will be off-and-on and not a "straight through" read. The "next up" novel (I'm reading in publication order) will be Territorial Rights, an actual Virago (though I have it in an omnibus edition).

ETA: I'm also currently doing an off-and-on of The Edinburgh Companion to Muriel Spark, a typically "academic" work that varies from tedious to quite useful. Probably a 3½*** so far.

And I've just started Martin Stannard's Muriel Spark: The Biography.

Aug 14, 2018, 5:14am

>30 CurrerBell: I've been alternating my Thirkells with other Viragoes. I could easily binge on the Barsetshire books but I think they are best savoured in small doses. Hope you enjoy your choices for the rest of the month.

Aug 14, 2018, 6:47am

>31 Sakerfalcon: I agree with you, Claire. I read one every so often, so I'm making my way through the series very slowly.

Aug 14, 2018, 9:14am

I'm 6 chapters into Guard Your Daughters. Loving it so far!!!!

Aug 15, 2018, 4:00am

I'm really enjoying I'm not complaining. It's a rather bleak view of teaching in a primary school in a deprived area, but the stories of the teachers and their pupils and everyday life in the school are keeping me hooked. Back then, as now, school inspections are the bane of teachers' lives, as their performance is judged on a few minutes observation of their class by an outsider.

Aug 15, 2018, 6:54am

I liked that one, too, Claire.

Aug 15, 2018, 8:00am

>35 lauralkeet: It must have seemed quite shocking at the time it was published, I imagine, given the prominent abortion storyline.

Aug 15, 2018, 7:03pm

Oh yes! I agree, Claire.

Edited: Aug 16, 2018, 12:43pm

I've read Summer Half (reviewed here ) and finished Peking Picnic this morning but haven't reviewed it yet. I'm now onto a Persephone, which I always include in AV/AA, Guard Your Daughters (wish I could just READ AND READ IT). So not doing too badly.

>20 Sakerfalcon: D'oh!

Aug 16, 2018, 5:11pm

I finished Guard Your Daughters this afternoon. Initially I found this book very reminiscent of I Capture the Castle. Lots of fun, and lots to like in the eccentric Harvey household until, perhaps 60 pages in, when the dysfunction in this sweet 1950s family begins to show itself. An enjoyable read on many levels but one that also had me muttering and complaining to the characters throughout the last 100 pages or so: ‘Tell her NO!’ I said. And, ‘For God’s sake stand up for yourself!’ It certainly held my attention.

Aug 17, 2018, 7:30am

>39 romain: I had similar reactions while reading Guard your daughters. I admired the way Tutton managed to turn the book from an amusing family story into something more chilling.

I finished I'm not complaining and really enjoyed it. The end was perhaps a little rushed, but I was very satisfied with where we leave Madge. It's often a bleak and sad story, with its portrayal of poverty and deprivation (both physical and often emotional too), but somehow I didn't find it a depressing book.

Now I'm back on the Thirkell with Summer half.

Aug 18, 2018, 10:22am

I read Sisters by a River by Barbara Comyns for AV/AA - her first novel - gave me lots to think about.

I am also claiming Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell despite reading it in a non Virago edition.

Aug 18, 2018, 12:48pm

Aug 19, 2018, 4:24pm

The weather has been appalling here in NJ this weekend so I lay on the sofa and read The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens. I really didn't like Mariana which is another of her Persephones but this one was wonderful. 5 stars.

Edited: Aug 20, 2018, 5:05am

Finished Summer half which was delightful. I'm now reading what I suspect will be rather a depressing Virago, The unlit lamp by Radclyffe Hall. Well written so far, and excellent characterisation.

Aug 23, 2018, 6:44am

I finished The unlit lamp which, as I suspected, was a rather depressing book. It's about a toxic mother-daughter relationship and love at its most possessive. Joan is the odd elder daughter of Colonel and Mrs Ogden who live in genteel comfort in a small, conservative seaside town. Elizabeth, just graduated from Cambridge, arrives as governess to the two sisters, and a passionate friendship grows between her and Joan as Joan's exceptional academic ability becomes clear. The two plan that Joan will go to Cambridge, train in medicine and then share a flat together in London. However, Mrs Ogden has no intention of letting her daughter go, and uses every trick in the book to stifle her plans for freedom. She must surely rank as one of the most monstrous mothers in fiction. She, Joan and Elizabeth are vividly drawn in their power struggle, and there is much to admire, if not like, in this novel. It was a good but depressing read that I can't see myself revisiting in future.

Aug 23, 2018, 11:27am

>20 Sakerfalcon: thanks to your useful point, I am continuing to read Starlight rather than going for Long Live Great Bardfield on the grounds that I didn't want to end up rushing the latter. And claiming it.

Aug 24, 2018, 9:10am

I've just finished The Persephone Book of Short Stories which was a quick read for me. I'd already read two-thirds of the stories in other Persephone short story collections and found those I hadn't already come across just a tad boring.

Aug 24, 2018, 10:55am

>46 LyzzyBee: Excellent! Long live Great Bardfield is on my tbr pile too. I think I bought it when we had our last London meetup and went to the Persephone shop.

Aug 25, 2018, 9:38am

Began Julian Grenfell last night. 80 pages in. So far Julian has been born and carried off to the nursery and the book is all about his socialite mother.

Aug 26, 2018, 12:21am

Onward with Virago author Muriel Spark, inspired by Ali's centenary read-a-thon. This time, finishing up The Golden Fleece: Essays (3½***), not a Virago publication:
My somewhat low rating of this collection isn't for want of liking some of the pieces immensely, it's simply that (like most collections of this sort) some pieces are outstanding while others are humdrum. Particularly interesting, at least based on my own bias, is Spark's considerable attention to the Brontës with especial attention to Emily.

Positively not recommended until you've first read Curriculum Vitae and have a basic grasp of Spark's fiction, including the short stories. Also, be aware that Spark thought of herself first and foremost as a poet writing in novel form, which is particularly relevant to her treatment of Emily Brontë as poet.

Aug 28, 2018, 4:55am

I'm still waiting for my next Angela Thirkell to arrive in the post (The Brandons) so in the meantime I'm fitting in a short Virago, Olivia.

Aug 28, 2018, 5:43pm

>50 CurrerBell: thanks Mike, I have those essays but haven't got round to reading them. I read all the short stories instead.

Edited: Aug 28, 2018, 5:45pm

I read The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim hoping to write a review for Thursday's EvA day. Such a delightful calm read in this world of insanity.

Aug 29, 2018, 8:18am

I finished Olivia and was slightly disappointed with it. I think there are so many other "school stories for grown ups" that I've loved (Frost in May, The land of spices, The getting of wisdom, Claudine at school) that this slim volume couldn't quite stand up to. It's not bad, but not something I will read again.

My copy of The Brandons arrived yesterday so I've started that for both Thirkell month and AV/AA.

Aug 30, 2018, 2:43am

By a Virago (The Brontës Went to Woolworths) and Persephone (Alas, Poor Lady) author but a non-Virago/Persephone title: Rachel Ferguson's A Harp in Lowndes Square (3*** review). This is one of three Ferguson titles recently – in the past couple of years or so – republished as "Furrowed Middlebrow" titles both in print and in ebook.

Aug 30, 2018, 5:05am

I've done The Loved and Envied but haven't reviewed it yet (sorry, >54 Sakerfalcon: , I didn't love it!) and am part way through Princes in the Land for my last Persephone for AVAA. So I've done all but one of the books Long Live Great Bardfield was swapped out for Starlight by Virago author Stella Gibbons I planned to do.

Aug 30, 2018, 8:12am

At *last* I have read and reviewed a Virago for this month - I've done quite well with #WITmonth but fairly rubbish with my Viragos. The one I've read, though, is marvellous and I can't recommend it enough - Clash by Ellen Wilkinson.

I've reviewed it here:

Aug 30, 2018, 5:14pm

Finished Julian Grenfell which I gave one star. Disliked it so much I wrote a rare review to vent about it.

Aug 30, 2018, 11:51pm

Reviewed the (sadly unloved) The Loved and Envied and should have Princes in the Land finished if not reviewed today. That makes my AV (and P) / AA look like this:

Barren Ground - Ellen Glasggw
Peking Picnic - Ann Bridge
Summer Half - Angela Thirkell
The Brandons - Angela Thirkell
Guard Your Daughters - Diana Tutton (P)
The Loved and Envied - Enid Bagnold
Princes in the Land - Joanna Cannan (P)
Starlight - Stella Gibbons (Virago author)

Not a bad attempt!

Aug 31, 2018, 2:09am

>58 romain: Goodness! I think I’ll definitely avoid that one... 😱😱

Aug 31, 2018, 2:09am

>59 LyzzyBee: Well done Liz! You’ve done much better than I have!

Aug 31, 2018, 4:13am

>58 romain: Ugh! Thank you for reading that so we don't have to.

>59 LyzzyBee: Well done Liz! Sorry the Bagnold wasn't for you; it wasn't for me either. I may give The squire a try as I have a copy, but somehow there are always other more appealing books on my shelf.

My total for the month is:
Pomfret Towers Thirkell
No more than human Laverty
August folly Thirkell
I'm not complaining Adam
Summer half Thirkell
The unlit lamp Hall
Olivia Strachey
The Brandons Thirkell

Aug 31, 2018, 5:10am

I've read more Viragos this August than usual:

Summer Half
Pomfret Towers
The Brandons
Excellent Women
Peking Picnic

I enjoyed the Thirkells very much but three in a row was quite enough for a while; the Barbara Pym was a re-read and I've just finished A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters but I don't think that has been issued by Virago.

Edited: Aug 31, 2018, 12:08pm

I was busy with Women in translation month so fewer AV/AA this from me. However I will be reading some more through the autumn and winter anyway.

I read

Open the Door Catherine Carswell
The Seventh Cross Anna Seghers for #WITMonth not VMC but it is published by Virago
Sisters by a River by Barbara Comyns
Before Lunch Angela Thirkell non VMC edition though.
The Solitary Summer Elizabeth von Arnim

My review of the Solitary Summer is up on my blog now.

Aug 31, 2018, 2:42pm

I read

Making Conversation 2*
The World That Was Ours 3*
Guard Your Daughters 4*
The Winds of Heaven 5*
The Persephone Book of Short Stories 2*
Julian Grenfell 0*

All Persephones - which brings my list to 30 unread out of 125 if you don't count the cook books and gardening books and any brand new releases I have not bought.

Sep 1, 2018, 7:41pm

Well, I did it... August had passed me by without a Virago and I was getting worried. It was no way to celebrate AVAA, but yesterday, the 31st, I decided I had to read one that day. However, first I had to finish my reread of Kim for another project. Kim was finished by noon, afternoon off, and then I selected the skinniest Virago I could find on my TBR shelves. Luckily it was by Eudora Welty, whom I really enjoy, so I had hope. Finished The Ponder Heart on time.

Sep 10, 2018, 12:32pm

>66 SassyLassy: Nice save!

Sep 13, 2018, 4:44am

Hi, folks!

I can't believe it's September already... Here are the Viragos I read in September:

A View of the Harbour, by Elizabeth Taylor (1947)
Vera, by Elizabeth von Arnim (1921)
The Matriarch, by G. B. Stern (1924)
Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain (1933)

My reviews are on my blog:
Von Arnim:

I am yet to write about Testament of Youth - what a beautiful, heart-wrenching book!

Sep 14, 2018, 7:27am

>68 Juliana.Brina: Vera is so chilling, and sadly its themes are still relevant.
I also really enjoyed The matriarch.