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2019 Monthly Reads - General Discussion

Virago Modern Classics

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Nov 25, 2018, 10:01am Top

Is anyone else starting to think about their 2019 Virago reading? Good, let's talk about it. 😀

First, a bit of history
For the past two years, we've voted on authors to feature each month of the year, and enjoyed group reads of those authors. The wonderful Dee (Soupdragon) has been really great about organizing these for us. Prior to 2017, we had year-long reading themes. Sometimes the themes focused on a specific author, usually to recognize the centenary of their birth. We've also organized the year around other thematic topics. Here's a complete list:

2018 Authors: Dorothy Canfield Fisher, E H Young, Rosamond Lehmann, Angela Carter, Winifred Holtby, Molly Keane, Angela Thirkell, Stevie Smith, Olivia Manning, F Tennyson Jesse & Antonia White, Kate O Brien

2017 Authors: Vita Sackville-West, Rebecca West, Edith Wharton, Elizabeth vonArnim, Willa Cather, Margaret Laurence, Rumer Godden, Christina Stead, Nina Bawden, Margaret Kennedy, Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Townsend Warner

2016 Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage
2015 The Seven Ages of Women
2014 The Great War
2013 Barbara Pym Centenary
2012 Elizabeth Taylor Centenary

Now, what about 2019?
The monthly reads have been working well, and we can certainly continue with a new set of authors selected & voted on by the group. We could also do something new in the way of a theme, or celebrate a centenary. These events work best when we do all the choosing/organizing at the start of the year, and Dee has graciously agreed to be our organizer again -- thank you Dee!

Please weigh in with your thoughts. Are you interested in monthly group reads? Would you like to continue with featured monthly authors? Do you have ideas for other themes?

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 11:14am Top

Thank you for your kind words, Laura.

I would certainly be happy to get us started with some monthly reads. I'm also wondering about what we all think about more author reads. They've worked well so far, but have we covered most of our favourite authors already now? Or not?

I was wondering about chosing a particular time period as a theme, maybe a particular decade from the twentieth century. We could focus on one over the year or a different one each month. We wouldn't necessarily have to stick to Virago published authors (unless we chose to). I think reading women authors from the early and mid twentieth century would still be in the spirit of Virago, whoever the authors were published by.

With 2019 being eighty years since the outbreak of World War 2, perhaps we could focus on the 1930s and 1940s? Or just specifically books written during, or written about, WW2? If we did go with the latter, I'd suggest making it a year long theme so we can dip in and out. I love war time fiction, but do tend to need a break from it too.

I don't really have any definite thoughts or views though, and would love to hear others' suggestions.

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 6:58pm Top

The monthly author reads have worked very well for me. I have discovered some new favourite authors and made some impression on my VMC stacks. I also like the idea of the chronological read project though I haven't done quite so well on that one so far. I would be interested in continuing with more authors (Rose Macaulay springs to mind, also what about Daphne du Maurier?), though I'd also be happy to read other authors not published by Virago (but who perhaps should have been). In short, I have no new ideas and am happy to follow whatever the consensus may be.

Nov 26, 2018, 7:21am Top

I've been giving this some thought too. I like the monthly author reads a lot, but I'd wondered about interspersing them with some non-fiction themes or genres - memoir, travel writing, a period or place in history - Dee's suggestion of WWII related works could fit in easily. I'm also happy to go along with whatever the majority suggest though - this is just a purely selfish suggestion to get some more books off my TBR pile!

Nov 26, 2018, 4:25pm Top

I too don’t have any strong feelings as I tend to dip in and out of these things as I’m so hopeless at sticking to challenges. However I do quite like the idea of bringing in some non-fiction e.g. the Virago travellers because like Claire I tend to have quite a few on my TBR! 🤣🤣

Nov 28, 2018, 1:35pm Top

I've enjoyed the chronological read to date.

I like the idea at >4 Sakerfalcon: about introducing nonfiction books as well. There are quite a few Virago titles in this category and Persephone has a wide range.

One other suggestion might be to select a country for a month and read authors from there. This would work well for countries where there might not be enough titles for a given author for a month's reading, yet there would be enough authors to round out a month. Australia and South Africa come to mind, but there are others as well.

Nov 29, 2018, 4:19am Top

>6 SassyLassy: Ooh, I like that idea!

Dec 2, 2018, 4:36pm Top

>2 Soupdragon: love this idea, I do enjoy WW2 literature.

The author a month has been great, I didn't do as well with them this year as last.

Dec 3, 2018, 4:55pm Top

Thanks to everyone who has chimed in so far.

It seems people want to continue monthly group reads in some fashion, whether that's with pre-selected monthly authors, or a theme (e.g., WW II, possibly some nonfiction, or reading authors from specific countries). The chronological reading project will continue at its own pace, so our task is to figure out what we'd like to do on a monthly basis.

If we were to read Virago authors from specific countries, I think we'd be looking at 6 English-speaking countries: England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, US, and Canada (I can't think of authors from other countries off the top of my head).

If we focus on a time period such as the 1930s/1940s, we could break that down into smaller time periods and read books either published or set in that time. We could take a similar time-based approach with World War II or come up with other topical themes related to the War. It was mentioned that a full year devoted to the war might be too much, so there may also be an opportunity to combine this with other ideas.

What thoughts do you all have about this? Or perhaps this post has sparked a completely new thought on how to organize our 2019 Virago reading -- that's great, let us know what you're thinking.

Let's keep the discussion going and see what emerges. Thanks for your input!

Edited: Dec 3, 2018, 11:39pm Top

Don't forget New Zealand! Jean Devanny, Janet Frame and Katherine Mansfield have all been published by Virago. I'm happy with both the 1930s/40s & WWII suggestions. Although I've already read quite a lot of books from or about those periods there seem to be plenty more.

Dec 4, 2018, 8:01am Top

>10 europhile: I'm so sorry, Grant. I feel terrible for overlooking NZ. That was a really stupid oversight on my part.

Edited: Dec 5, 2018, 8:06am Top

Apologies, but I am not going to be able to facilitate the setting up of these reads as I had hoped. I'd planned to use the days I have booked off work after Christmas itself to do this but have just found out I'm having surgery on 3rd January. That sounds like I had no warning. I did know it was coming but have been waiting so long that it's quite a shock to have been actually given a date (the NHS really is in crisis). Still quite possible the operation will be cancelled, of course!

If the monthly reads still go ahead, I will try to catch up and get involved later. Should have a bit of time on my hands post-op! Regarding themes, one possibility could be we chose a time period such as 1940s and then topics with it such as War, Post-War, Peace, Women, Family, Work, Relationships, Travel. We could easily fit our non-fiction TBR reads in as well as the fiction.

Dec 8, 2018, 1:17pm Top

At this point it looks like we have two possibilities for organizing our 2019 monthly reads. I think it's time for a vote!

1) Read a Country: choose authors from a designated country (most likely England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, US, and Canada)

2) Read the 1940s: choose books about this period in history, with monthly topics such as War, Post-War, Peace, Women, Family, Work, Relationships, Travel.

Both options can accommodate non-fiction reads as well as Virago Modern Classics and Persephone titles.

Please comment below with your preference. Voting will close Friday, December 14 at 11pm US Eastern Time.

Edited: Dec 8, 2018, 4:21pm Top

I have neglected my Virago reading in recent years. I did Taylor and Pym religiously, and dipped in and out of the Seven Ages of Women, but really have read almost nothing from my green-spine collection since. I'd really like to get back into them, and to facilitate that, I would love to read the 1940's (and maybe stretch it into the late 1930's as the war approached). I have identified several books on my shelves that would fit that choice.

>9 lauralkeet: I think we have to throw South Africa in there too, don't we?

Dec 9, 2018, 6:47am Top

>13 lauralkeet: I'm broadly in the same position as >14 laytonwoman3rd: in that I have been neglecting my Virago reading the last few years. I'd vote for the 1940s - I have Mary Hocking's Good Daughters trilogy in mind but I'm sure I will find other reads that fit the themes as well.

Dec 9, 2018, 7:07am Top

I think the 1940s idea is a good one - it'll be a bit like the year when we read books written during WWI with a different theme each month. Taking the whole decade gives us a broader range to choose from, but if anyone wanted to focus purely on WWII they would be able to. And of course it also gives us the option to read books from the different countries within the monthly topics.

Dec 9, 2018, 7:50am Top

I am just following along this year and will see how it all works out for me. Of course I am already committed to read Pilgrimage which you read in 2016 so that will take up most of my time.

Dec 9, 2018, 10:24am Top

I also have exhausted the bulk of my VMCs (I started reading them in the 80s) but I still have loads of Persephones to get thru. I love the late 30s - 49 idea and will try to read along.

Edited: Dec 9, 2018, 11:55am Top

18> I'm just looking at Gill Plain's Literature of the 1940s for inspiration and there are loads of Persephone authors mentioned.

Dec 9, 2018, 4:36pm Top

>13 lauralkeet: I'm happy to do either, but my suggestion wasn't meant as a year long endeavour necessarily, rather as an intermittent monthly theme, allowing other themes as well.

Dec 9, 2018, 5:06pm Top

I’d be happy to give either a go. From my point of view I’m usually rubbish at sticking to plans so the looser the better. I fell off the wagon with this year’s challenge but I may be able to scramble back on this month.... 😉

Dec 15, 2018, 9:27am Top

Thanks for all of your comments. The 2019 Virago Monthly Reads theme will be:

Read the 1940s
Each month we will focus on a specific topic. To help you plan your reading, twelve topic threads will be created at the beginning of the year. Everyone can then suggest/recommend books that fit the topic. These can be fiction or nonfiction, Viragos, Persephones, or books by Virago/Persephone authors.

At the start of each month we'll "bump" the appropriate topic thread to the top of the group to prompt reading and discussion.

So what are the monthly topics? Thanks for asking! So far we have eight topics in no particular order:
* War
* Post-War
* Peace
* Women
* Family
* Work
* Relationships
* Travel

I'm accepting nominations for additional topics. Thoughts on how to sequence the topics are also welcome.

And ... GO!

Dec 15, 2018, 9:34am Top

>22 lauralkeet: One might be emigration/relocation. So many people moved willingly or otherwise in the aftermath of WWII. I'm not sure about Virago titles that might work there, but there may be some Persephones.

Food might be another topic, from agriculture to rationing to victory gardens to recipes. You get the idea.

Dec 15, 2018, 10:46am Top

Yes Sassy. My parents left England in '46 for New Zealand. They left the East End during the Blitz and lucked into a decent house in Leigh on Sea - a standard of living that was not available to them in post war England but was possible in the Commonwealth. So they emigrated.

Dec 15, 2018, 10:50am Top

A topic that always comes to my mind when thinking of the 1940's is style and fashion...not sure how to work Virago or Persephone titles into that theme either, but it might be a subject for general comment as we're reading.

Edited: Dec 15, 2018, 5:33pm Top

1940s would have got my vote if I had got to the thread in time. I love that period. This will be so interesting.

Edited: Dec 15, 2018, 10:25pm Top

Clarification questions--for both of these, I'm thinking of fiction:

1) Can the book be written/published after 1949, but be set (partially or completely) in the 1940s?

2) Can the book be written/published in the 1940s, but be set (partially or completely) prior to 1940?

And adding a suggestion that one month be a "wild card"-- no particular theme, just the 1940s.

Edited: Dec 16, 2018, 1:09am Top

>27 kac522: I would think yes to both and would also suggest that we set our own rules to suit ourselves.

Personally I probably won't be sticking to just Virago and Persephone, but will try to keep to the "Virago spirit" and only read female authors who might have been published by them if not already published elsewhere. However, I know some will want to use this as a prompt to get to unread VMCs and Persephones, in which case it would make sense to be more purist.

Also, I really like the idea of a wild card month. Maybe at, or towards, the end of the year to fit in those which didn't seem to fit in anywhere before or those we want to read after others have done so in previous months?

Dec 16, 2018, 6:32am Top

I’m very happy to go along with what ever people set up for this! It sounds as if it’s flexible enough for me to drop in when I’m in the right mood and the era itself of course is very interesting! Also I love getting other people’s suggestions of books I might like to read!

Dec 16, 2018, 7:43am Top

>29 kaggsy: perhaps we should start a 1940s recommendation thread.

I know that would help me. I try to keep lists, but I still easily forget about books I have heard about that I know I would like.

Dec 16, 2018, 7:46am Top

>27 kac522:, >28 Soupdragon: I agree with Dee about setting our own rules. Let's keep this flexible and fun.

And I love the wildcard idea. I've seen that done in other LT groups (the American Author Challenge in the 75Books Challenge group comes to mind), and people seem to really like it. Plus, it's an easy way to fill one of our monthly slots. 😂

Dec 16, 2018, 7:48am Top

>30 Heaven-Ali: That's a thought, Ali. My original thought was to create the twelve topic threads all at once, so everyone could suggest/recommend books that fit the topic(s). But we could do a general recommendations thread instead. What does everyone think?

Dec 16, 2018, 9:24am Top

>23 SassyLassy:, >25 laytonwoman3rd:, >27 kac522:, >28 Soupdragon:, >31 lauralkeet: Emigration/relocation and food as topics sound good to me. Style and fashion would also be interesting but I'm a bit stumped to think of any titles. And a wildcard month sounds like a good idea - I can think of some general WWII social history books I've been meaning to read which would probably cover multiple monthly topics.

>32 lauralkeet: I think a general recommendations thread would be good. But perhaps whoever sets up the monthly thread could then list the recommendations for that topic in the opening post as a reference if that's not too much work?

Dec 16, 2018, 3:21pm Top

Perhaps we could use a general discussion thread for tentative suggestions and thoughts but still have the twelve threads open from the beginning of the year to drop confident recommendations into?

Dec 16, 2018, 4:27pm Top

yes, >34 Soupdragon: that's the kind of thing I meant, :)

Dec 16, 2018, 4:46pm Top

>34 Soupdragon:, >35 Heaven-Ali: Got it -- that makes sense. I think I'd like to have a specific "recommendations" thread, so recs don't get buried or mixed up with other topics.

>33 souloftherose: Heather, I also like your idea of listing recommendations in the opening thread for each topic.

So what I propose is to create a recommendations thread and all twelve monthly threads. Then, as we approach the start of each month, I'll copy over any recommendations received. And people can still add their own "confident recommendations" to the monthly thread as well.

Does that make sense?

Dec 16, 2018, 5:10pm Top

Sounds fab Laura and thanks for doing this! 😁

Dec 16, 2018, 5:43pm Top

>37 kaggsy: I live to serve 😇

Dec 17, 2018, 2:22am Top

>36 lauralkeet: that sounds great.

Edited: Dec 17, 2018, 3:58am Top

>34 Soupdragon:, >35 Heaven-Ali: This would help me enormously! For some reason I tend to know when my Persephones were written/set (probably because a lot of them are about WWII) but I'm quite vague when it comes to Viragos. All the ideas proposed so far sound great. Re: style/fashion - I'm not sure when they were written but Noel Streatfeild writing as Susan Scarlett has at least one book set in the fashion world.

ETA: It's Peter and Paul, published in 1940. Of course, it's probably not easy to get hold of.

Dec 17, 2018, 7:09am Top

>40 Sakerfalcon: I'm like you, Claire, in having only vague ideas about the time period for my Viragos. Fortunately, across this group as a whole we have a great store of knowledge to help us all next year's choose reads.

Edited: Dec 17, 2018, 3:27pm Top

>36 lauralkeet: Yes, that's what I meant. I probably wasn't clear when I talked about a general discussion thread -I meant a thread to discuss recommendations which wasn't confined to a particular month. (Feeling fuzzy brained at the moment. I'll blame my cold!)

>40 Sakerfalcon:, >41 lauralkeet: I'm also generally more aware of a Persephone's time period than a VMC. Perhaps because it's something Persephone usually talk about in their catalogue and magazine? Doing a little research however has shown me that many of our favourite Virago authors (and also Stevie Smith) were writing in the 1940s so there should be a fair amount of choice.

Edited to add: >25 laytonwoman3rd: I agree that it might be difficult to find Viragos and Persephones to fit a style and fashion theme but it would be interesting to comment on throughout our reads if we find it comes up.

I did remember there's a Dorothy Whipple novel set in a clothes shop, but checked and it's an earlier one of hers written in the 1930s.

Or (not a Persephone or Virago, or even written in the 1940s) but YA historical novel The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington seems to tick some boxes. Adlington is a costume designer as well as an author.

Dec 17, 2018, 5:58pm Top

>42 Soupdragon: many of our favourite Virago authors (and also Stevie Smith)
ha ha ha ha ha ha I like the juxtaposition of Stevie Smith with our favourites. We all had a tough time with Ms Smith this year, didn't we?

Edited: Dec 18, 2018, 12:11pm Top

I have these Viragos tagged "1940s" or "WWII" in my collection

The Street
On the Side of the Angels
Phoenix Fled
The Persimmon Tree and other stories
The Night Watch
Mrs. Miniver
A Stricken Field
At Mrs. Lippincote's
Chatterton Square
The Gentlewomen
Diary of a Provincial Lady (The Provincial Lady in Wartime)

I've read some of them already, of course, but I'm excited to see how the others may fit into the monthly topics.

Dec 18, 2018, 1:41am Top

I have these Viragos that were published in the 1940s that I have not read, so I don't know their content:

Sapphira and the Slave Girl, Willa Cather, 1940
The Little Company, Eleanor Dark, 1945
Cindie, Jean Devanny, 1949
Two Days in Aragon, M. J. Farrell (Molly Keane), 1941
Palladian, Elizabeth Taylor, 1946
A View of the Harbour, Elizabeth Taylor, 1947
A Wreath of Roses, Elizabeth Taylor, 1949
Mr. Skeffington, Elizabeth von Arnim, 1940

and one Persephone:

Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes, 1939-1944

Edited: Dec 18, 2018, 8:40am Top

Here's what I have for topics so far:
* War
* Post-War
* Peace
* Women
* Family
* Work
* Relationships
* Travel
* Emigration/Relocation
* Food
* Wildcard

There are eleven -- have I missed any? I'm thinking the Wildcard would be in December. Besides that, does anyone have preferences for reading topics in any particular order?

>44 laytonwoman3rd:, >45 kac522: I'm sensing some energy here! Excellent! I will create the book recommendations thread a bit later, I have to run to an appointment in a few minutes.

Dec 18, 2018, 10:36am Top

The Book Recommendations thread is up!

Edited: Dec 19, 2018, 1:40pm Top

Below is a proposed schedule for our chosen topics. Over on the recommendations thread, it was suggested that "War" be in September, recognizing the month Britain entered the war in 1939. I then thought it appropriate to precede that topic with Emigration/Relocation, and follow it with Post-War and Peace. I also scheduled Women in March to coincide with International Women's Day, May because Mother's Day is celebrated in May in the US, and Travel in July to mark the summer holidays in the northern hemisphere. That left the first few months of the year for the remaining topics, and I added a second Wildcard to complete the schedule. Et voila ...

January: Family
February: Relationships
March: Women
April: Work
May: Food
June: Wildcard
July: Travel
August: Emigration/Relocation
September: War
October: Post-War
November: Peace
December: Wildcard

If anyone has other thoughts on this, let me know by Friday (21 December) at which point we will consider the schedule final and everyone can start thinking about what they want to read in January!

Dec 19, 2018, 11:10am Top

>48 lauralkeet: Those themes for those months sound good to me - I especially like the idea of having another wildcard month mid-way through the year because I'm sure I will appreciate the chance to catch up with my plans and any new recommendations at that point.

Dec 19, 2018, 1:16pm Top

I think that’s brill - thank you Laura!

Dec 19, 2018, 1:41pm Top

Thanks Heather and Karen.

I just swapped May and March. It occurred to me it would be more globally inclusive to have "Women" in March, because International Women's Day is March 8.

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