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Shena Mackay – the new addition to the Virago Modern Classics list

Shena Mackay came to fame when she published her first book, written in her teens, with Andre Deutsch. Dust Falls on Eugene Schlumberger/Toddler on the Run was published before she was twenty. Then, in the early 1970s she moved to the country with her husband and three children, and re-emerged as a writer in the 1980s with a collection of stories, followed by more works including a Booker Shortlisted novel. She has written 15 works of fiction, both novels and short stories; at times darkly surreal and funny, always deft, and highly memorable.  Her fiction has attracted a legion of fierce admirers –  ranging from Iris Murdoch to Julie Burchill, Ian Hamilton to Rachel Cooke –  and many awards:  Redhill Rococo won the 1987 Fawcett Society Prize, Dunedin won the 1994 Scottish Arts Council Book Award, The Orchard on Fire was shortlisted for the 1995 Booker Prize and, in 2003, Heligoland was short-listed for both the Orange Prize and Whitbread Novel Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.



We’re so happy to add this truly original voice to the Classics – and this year we publish five novels which have earned her fame for `the Mackay vision, suburban – as kitsch, as unexceptional, and yet as rich in history and wonder as a plain Victorian terrace house, its threshold radiant with tiling and stained-glass birds of paradise encased in leaded lights’- Guardian.


Shena, now aged 70, lives in Southampton and is writing her memoir for publication in 2017.

She was born in Edinburgh but her family moved often and were living in Blackheath, South East London, when Shena left school at 16. Winning a £25 poetry prize in the prestigious Daily Mirror Children’s Literary Competition marked the beginning of her writing life. Part of her teens – she got married when she was 20 – were spent in Earls Court and the seedy Soho of the 1960s, and there she  met many artists; she visited Henry Moore at Much Hadham, and drinking whisky from bone china tea cups with David Hockney in Powis Square.  `People often remark,’ she said in a Telegraph interview `that it must have been exciting to be published so young, and it was, but it was also terrifying. I was both blase and shy, and I was entering an entirely new world, with holes in my shoes, and, as often as not, my dog in tow.’