If you visit blogs regularly you won't have missed the fact that this week has been deemed to be Virago Reading Week. I spotted this first on My Porch -- and thanks to Thomas who created this banner. There's a competition going on over there with a free book for anyone who can identify the books in the picture but I'm not entering as I can't identify any of them.
In fact I had not planned to have anything to do with VRW as I tend not to enter challenges, preferring instead just to follow my instincts and read whatever appeals to me at the moment. But last night I realised I had been reading a fairly relentless diet of crime lately and wanted something completely different. My eye happened to fall on a little clutch of Viragos in my bedroom bookcase -- there's no logic behind the collection of books in here, I just cram them in from time to time. And in amongst them was Beyond the Glass by Antonia White. I bought this a year or so ago at the 50p bookshop in Notting Hill Gate, just because it was there, really. But in a way it's quite an appropriate one to read this week as Antonia White's Frost in May was the first ever Virago to be published. I read that a couple of years ago and reviewed it here.
Antonia White writes autobiographically, though she doesn't write autobiographies, if that makes sense. Basically her novels are based closely on her own life. Frost in May is about her childhood, her father's conversion to Catholicism, her own religious faith, her time at a convent, and the unhappy way in which all this ended. Three more novels followed of which this is the third, though it only takes her up to age 23. So I started it and now I'm going to finish it. So far so good -- I'll let you know the final verdict in a few days.
Simon on Stuck in a Book has some interesting comments on Virago today, not least that all the Modern Classics were published by Virago before he was born! I well remember when they first started coming out, and I'd say they really transformed my reading experience. Rosamund Lehmann was one of my first discoveries and I still love her now. I always buy a green-backed Virago if I see it in a charity shop, though I haven't read all the ones I've got. Oh those green backs! What were they thinking of when they abolished them.