It's Virago's 30th birthday this year and to celebrate they are re-issuing eight of their favourite titles in collector's hardcover editions with these dynamic new covers, so different from the classic green-spined paperbacks, but equally beautiful. Those of us on this side of the pond however, won't be able to get their hands on them - they are being sold exclusively at Waterstones Bookstores in the U.K.
I've been collecting Virago Modern Classics for twenty years now and they've introduced me to so many amazing women writers. Justine Picardie, whose new novel Daphne, traces the period of Daphne du Maurier's life when she was writing a biography of Branwell Bronte (it looks fantastic - I can't wait to read it) has written a celebratory piece on Viragos in the Telegraph and guess what? I'm quoted! (from some comments I left on her blog). I'm in the paragraph just below the one about Jonathan Coe (only my favourite contemporary writer) talking about the reading impact Viragos had on him. So exciting. You can read the article he wrote about it here. And the Guardian has more tributes to Viragos here. Join the love-in.
The influence of Viragos on Coe's writing is most strongly felt in his latest novel The Rain Before It Falls, which is truly one of my favourite books this year and is a lovely tribute to Rosamond Lehmann whose works were brought back into print by Virago. Both writers are terrific at depicting complicated relationships, particularly between women. Pairing The Rain Before it Falls with Lehmann's The Echoing Grove for instance, would work wonderfully in a book club. And honestly, if you've never read anything by either author, what are you waiting for? Fiction doesn't get any better than this.