In prison you see only the moves of the enemy. Prison is the hardest place to fight a battle.’
117 Days is Ruth First’s personal account of her detention under the iniquitous ’90-day’ law of 1963. There was no warrant, no charge and no trial – only suspicion.
This sparsely written and unique record tells of her experiences of solitary confinement, constant interrogation and instantaneous re-arrest on release – lightened by humorous portraits of governors, matrons, wardresses and interrogators, seen as the tools of the police state.
In A Bowl of Cherries Shena Mackay tells the story of twin brothers whose lives are inexorably intertwined: Rex, a self-absorbed and successful writer, and Stanley, a minor poet who works as a dishwasher. Rex lives on the family estate being the older of the twins by one minute with his unhappy wife, Daphne, who writes children’s books. Their overweight daughter, Daisy, lives nearby, and as a result of a guilty secret of her own, has married an overbearing, misogynist, and skinflint husband, Julian. Rex’s illegitimate son, Seamus, 14, discovers Daisy quite by accident and their relationship blossoms despite the many flawed characters that surround them. He carries a family secret that proves to be devastating, but which ultimately releases his half-sister Daisy from her torments.
By the bestselling author of The Talented Mr Ripley, Carol and Strangers on a Train
‘Highsmith is a giant of the genre. The original, the best, the gloriously twisted Queen of Suspense’ Mark Billingham
‘Dear Sir, I suppose you are pretty pleased with yourself? Superior to everyone, you think. A fancy apartment and a snob dog. You are a disgusting little machine, nothing else. Your days are numbered.’
Ed Reynolds, an editor at a prestigious publishing house, has received a number of anonymous poison pen letters. He has no idea who could bear him such a grudge. Returning home one night, he finds a ransom note for his wife’s beloved French poodle: ‘I have your dog Lisa. She is well and happy . . . I gather the dog is important to you? We’ll see!’
The criminal has hit the Manhattan couple where it hurts most. And so, with this bizarre event, their nightmare begins. A Dog’s Ransom captures the fragility of middle-class life in this riveting, scathing tale.
By the author of Black Narcissus.
‘Her craftsmanship is always sure; her understanding of character is compassionate and profound; her prose is pure, delicate, and gently witty’ New York Times
Grizel Dane, a bold young servicewoman in the US army, arrives at the London home of her great-uncle Sir Rollo Dane seeking refuge from the chaos of wartime. Through the old man, Grizel learns the surprising history of the Dane family and Lark Ingoldsby.
Orphaned by a train crash, Lark was taken in by the Danes as an adoptive daughter but soon found herself caught in a web of sibling rivalry, love and attrition. Selina Dane, racked with jealousy, set out to destroy Lark’s dreams of love. When Grizel falls for Pax Masterson, a wounded airman, Rollo urges her to seize her chance for happiness, as he was not able to. Rumer Godden’s dramatic story of romance and tragedy was the basis for the classic film Enchantment starring David Niven.
A stunning hardback edition of Elizabeth Taylor’s wonderful novel about first love and childhood summers, with a cover design by Celia Birtwell.
During summer games of hide-and-seek Harriet falls in love with Vesey and his elusive, teasing ways. When he goes to Oxford she cherishes his photograph and waits for the letter that never comes. Then Charles enters her life, and Harriet stifles her imaginings. With a husband and daughter, she excels at respectability: ornaments on the mantlepiece, remembered birthdays and jars of lilac. But when Vesey reappears, her marriage seems to melt away. Harriet is older, it is much too late, but she is still in love with him.
First published in 1958, this is Elizabeth Taylor’s subtlest and finest work.
By the bestselling author of The Talented Mr Ripley, Carol and Strangers on a Train
‘I love Highsmith so much . . . What a revelation her writing is’ Gillian Flynn
‘Ramón had done it. Obviously! He thought about Ramón, his Catholic soul trapped in his passion for Lelia. He’d find Ramón and see that he paid with his life for what he had done.’
In A Game for the Living threads of sexual jealousy and guilt are shot through with all Patricia Highsmith’s uncanny talent for the unexpected.
Mild-mannered Theo is a wealthy German expatriate; hot-tempered Ramón was born into poverty in Mexico City. The two men are unlikely friends – especially as they are in love with the same woman. When Lelia is found brutally murdered, both lovers are suspects – and each suspects the other. But then they discover that a thief was seen at Lelia’s apartment, and their hunt leads them on a frantic chase to sun-drenched Acapulco. Theo begins to get the uneasy feeling that his every move is being watched.
WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY CLARE CHAMBERS
‘I’m a huge fan of Barbara Pym’ RICHARD OSMAN
‘The subtlest of her books . . . the sparkle on first acquaintance has been succeeded by the deeper brilliance of established art’ PHILIP LARKIN
Wilmet Forsyth is well dressed, well looked after, suitably husbanded, good-looking and fairly young – but very bored. Her sober husband Rodney, who works at the Ministry, is slightly balder and fatter than he once was. Wilmet would like to think she has changed rather less. Her interest wanders to the nearby church, where she can neglect her comfortable household in the more serious-minded company of three unmarried priests, and, of course, Piers Longridge, a man of an unfathomably different character altogether.
‘My favourite writer . . . I pick up her books with joy, as though I were meeting an old, dear friend who comforts me, extends my vision and makes me roar with laughter’ JILLY COOPER
‘Barbara Pym is the rarest of treasures’ ANNE TYLER
Emma’s anxious and manipulative plea, ‘Someone listen to me’, opens- and closes- this deliciously uncomfortable novel in which Nina Bawden explores myriad emotional disguises with her characteristic acuity.
When Emma’s father-in-law falls down the stairs to his death, she is convinced she pushed him in an act of wish-fulfilment. To her husband Henry and her close friend Holly, this is unthinkable. Guilt is simply Emma’s obsession in a humdrum domestic existence enlivened by romantic fantasy. For Holly, who successfully fields a string of love affairs, sexual pleasures are more easily attainable, whereas Henry, a Divorce lawyer, prides himself on being a realist. Each tells their story in turn, illuminating and distorting their separate versions of the truth.
As they do so, an intricate jigsaw of the private deceits with which they shore up everyday life emerges . . .
By the author of “Circles of Deceit” and “Tortoise by Candlelight”, this novel shows the fragility of a family’s equilibrium. Three children live with their mother and are happy in the love of their stepfather. The arrival of an aunt and the adolescent worries of the girls sets up tensions.
A timeless Cinderella story, A Little Princess is one of the best-loved children’s classics of all time. A heartwarming tale that champions the power of imagination.
‘I’d read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and loved it – so I tried A Little Princess and liked it even more!’ Jacqueline Wilson
‘Sara Crewe is a Cinderella figure… She is intelligent and good humoured with an infectious warmth that embraces the lowliest of her new acquaintances. The sunshine continues when impoverishment and drudgery befall her and she relies on her private fantasies to preserve her natural zest for life’ Guardian
‘It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.’
When Sara Crewe is sent to Miss Minchin’s school for young ladies, her indulgent father provides for her as if she were a little princess. But although her toys and clothes are the envy of the other girls, Sara’s kindness and gift for storytelling soon win her lots of friends. Then, the tragic news arrives that her father has died penniless and, without wealth or a guardian, Sara is at the mercy of Miss Minchin. Forced to work from dawn until dusk as the school’s unpaid servant, she looks over the rooftops from her damp attic room and dreams of a better life. All is not lost: she has friends, courage and imagination – maybe that’s all she really needs.
A collection that will be coveted by children and adults alike, this list is the best in children’s literature, curated by Virago. These are timeless tales with beautiful covers, that will be treasured and shared across the generations. Some titles you will already know; some will be new to you, but there are stories for everyone to love, whatever your age. Our list includes Nina Bawden (Carrie’s War, The Peppermint Pig), Rumer Godden (The Dark Horse, An Episode of Sparrows), Joan Aiken (The Serial Garden, The Gift Giving) E. Nesbit (The Psammead Trilogy, The Bastable Trilogy, The Railway Children), L. M. Montgomery (The Anne of Green Gables series) and Susan Coolidge (The What Katy Did Trilogy). Discover Virago Children’s Classics.
Marian Forrester brings delight to her husband, an elderly railroad pioneer; to the small town of Sweet Water where they live; and to Niel Herbert, the young narrator of her story, who falls in love with her as a boy and later becomes her confidant. He witnesses this vibrant woman in all her contradictory facets: by turns faithless and steadfast, dazzling and pathetic, invincibly charming yet dangerously vulnerable to the men she charms. All are bewitched by her charisma and grace – and all are ultimately betrayed.
‘This classic has the striking economy of Hemingway, and is as poignant an elegy for the pioneer West as I have read. The vivacious Marian Forrester stands as a romantic paean to the pioneer’s reckless abandon, counterpointed by the narrator’s prim decency’ The Times
This novel is a testament of what seemed at the time a fairly ordinary childhood, in the bosom of a normal Nazi family in Landsberg. Other work by the author includes The Quest for Christa and No Place on Earth .