Find out what the Virago team has been reading so far this year, and which books we are planning on packing in our suitcases this summer.
I’ve been captivated by Susan Fletcher’s novel, Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric and moving read, filled with gorgeous descriptions of Provence in the south of France- where Vincent Van Gogh spent his later years. Evocative and tender, the power of her writing means you really get the sense of seeing the world through Van Gogh’s eyes, and in Jeanne and Charles Trabuc (Van Gogh’s doctor and his wife) she has created beautifully well-drawn and believable characters that will stay with you. A book to transport you, wherever you are reading this summer.
Stephen Dumughn, Deputy Marketing Director
This book sat for quite a while, unread on my bedside table; after what seemed a very long winter, I felt I needed the sun to appear before I felt I could read a memoir, which I’d heard was raw, set in Orkney. Then I went to see Amy talk at the Greenwich Book Festival, and she was so engaging I began it that evening. I had to read it straight away – whatever the weather. On stage, she said she was currently writing about both ‘the electronic aftermath of a relationship . . . and jellyfish’, so I knew The Outrun would defy easy categorisation, and it is all the better for that. You will read about the thrills of being young and hip in Hackney Fields, but also about the self-destruction of alcoholism; about the euphoria of cycling drunk through London late at night, speeding past the blur of streetlights, and of the wind-blasted, wave-battered beauty and solitude of Orkney. When struggling with sobriety, she returns to the place of her birth, and it is there that she starts to heal – swimming in the freezing sea, searching for the Northern Lights, learning about the animals and birds of the islands – and she sees it all with new eyes, so you share the experience with her. Orkney is no longer the place that hemmed Amy in as a teenager, and the descriptions of the islands – their wildlife, their myths, lore and history – are just stunning. She rediscovers it all while her sober self grows in confidence. Liptrot is just realising her powers as a writer and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.
Donna Coonan, Editorial Director, Virago Modern Classics
I am editing a biography of the wonderful Anglo-Irish writer, Molly Keane. Molly Keane: A Life, is by her daugther Sally Phipps and we publish the book in November 2016. It is making me want to reread Molly’s novels and in particular, the brilliant Good Behaviour. Tart, darkly humorous, poignant; surely there can be no other novel that begins with death by rabbit mousse. That is death of the mother, by the way . . .
Lennie Goodings, Publisher, Virago
Having been completely captivated by The Violet Hour by Katie Roiphe, I now want to read everything she’s ever written and have added her 2010 book Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages in Literary London 1910-1939 to my summer reading list. It looks at the unconventional relationships between renowned writers and artists – drawing on the memoirs, letters and diaries of a group of British intellectuals writing between 1910 and the Second World War. Full of passion, jealously, anger, love and denial; it promises to be just as exciting for the sun-lounger as any pacy novel!
Grace Vincent, Publicity Manager
Recently I have been relishing Roald Dahl’s letters to his mother in Love from Boy. Having thought I’d read everything there was to read of Dahl, it’s been a joy to discover this treasure trove of his formative writing, particularly the early letters documenting his childhood in his inimitable, ‘topping’ style.
I’ve also been reading iO Tillett Wright’s Darling Days, about a very different childhood – iO grew up on New York’s Lower East Side in the nineties, and this memoir is gritty, candid and utterly gripping. iO’s brilliant writing vividly transported me to a tough urban side of New York City that I hadn’t known at all, and opened my eyes – wide.
I’m also looking forward to Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am and – especially now that Lennie has told us about death by rabbit mousse – Good Behaviour. Now, about that baggage allowance.
David Bamford, Assistant Editor
In a summer where so far, everything seems to be upside down, reading Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls was the perfect escape. I can now see why people are still reading (and loving) the book fifty years after it was published as despite the glamorous, celebrity filled world that Anne, Neely and Jennifer find themselves in, Jacqueline Susann writes their characters as so relatable and flawed that you can see bits of yourself in all of them.
After reading and loving The Paying Guests earlier this year I’m going to download the audiobook of The Night Watch to listen to while on a long haul flights this summer. I loved the way that Sarah Waters wrote about London in The Paying Guests, so can’t wait to be immersed in her descriptions of the city again, this time during WWII.
Sam Book, Digital Marketing Manager
As a brand new member of the Virago editorial team, I’m planning on filling my beach bag with the cream of the Virago Modern Classics, starting with South Riding by Winifred Holtby. The story of a headmistress determined to improve the fortunes of her students, it’s set against the backdrop of turbulent, sweeping change in England (so no relevance for now then).
I’m also looking forward to devouring Faithful Place, the one Tana French novel I haven’t yet read. She is one of my absolute favourite crime writers, a master of characterisation and place whose novels always make me shiver. I’m only allowing myself to finish reading her backlist because I know she has a new novel coming out in September.
Sarah Savitt, Deputy Publisher
My Cousin Rachel is a psychological thriller dripping with atmosphere – though there’s much more beneath the surface of du Maurier’s brilliant Gothic story-telling than just chills. Rachel is one of my favourite characters in literature; opaque, enigmatic and carefully-crafted – and is she guilty or innocent? So much is left open for the reader to ponder and yet the book’s chilling ending still manages to be utterly satisfying. It’s often cited as a book best read by the fire in the depths of winter, but I love it so much that whether I’m poolside, tucked up in bed or on the Tube, I just can’t put it down. It has a place in my suitcase every time I go on holiday.
Helen Upton, Press Officer
This summer I will be reading Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith. A strange contrast, you might say, but Highsmith is an astonishing writer and I am ashamed not to have discovered this one yet. Murder, intrigue, excellent female characters – she plots it all out so beautifully and I can’t wait to get started.
I’d also recommend reading Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld whom I have only recently discovered. A timely and fantastically modern take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Sittenfeld had me in stitches with her wisdom and wit. A book to pick up and not put down again until you have consumed it in one big gulp!
Poppy Stimpson, Senior Press Officer
Let us know your summer reading recommendations over on Twitter @ViragoBooks.