Writing this on the day that drones have shut down Gatwick airport and the cabinet is melting down even further over Brexit, it’s tempting to bury one’s head in the sand about what 2019 might bring…
However books have always been a source of solace – not to mention inspiration, entertainment and enlightenment – for me and many others. And I hope this preview of some of what Virago will be publishing in 2019 feels like a positive counterpoint to endlessly refreshing the website of the news outlet of your choice…
In February, we publish two established novelists who are new to our list – we’re delighted to welcome them to Virago.
First up is The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, which recently won the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction. A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing and the magical bond between a woman and her dog, it was chosen by over ten US publications as one of their books of the year, from the New York Times to the Financial Times to Bark Magazine (‘The Dog Culture Magazine’). I’m a cat person and I loved it.
Later in the same month, we have the new novel by Clare Clark, who has twice been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. In The Full Light of the Sun, which is based on a true story, Clark follows the fortunes of three Berliners caught in a devastating scandal of 1930s Germany. William Boyd has already praised it, saying ‘A completely fascinating novel about the early 20th century art world and its many dubious machinations. Expertly researched, compellingly narrated and full of potent resonance today.’
And in May we are thrilled to be publishing the wonderful A Stranger City by Orange Prize winner and Man Booker shortlisted author Linda Grant. Grant weaves a tale around ideas of home; how London can be a place of exile or expulsion, how home can be a physical place or an idea; hall our lives intersect and how coincidence or the randomness of birth place can decide how we live and with whom.
Over two decades ago, Amy Raphael interviewed women musicians for a book called Never Mind the Bollocks, which was described by Caitlin Moran as a book that ‘stretches your brain and swells your heart with every page’. Now, in A Seat at the Table (June 2019), Raphael has asked a fresh set of contemporary women musicians to tell their stories, from Kate Tempest to Maggie Rogers, from Christine and the Queens to Ibeyi.
High School (September 2019) is the revelatory and unique coming-of-age story of Sara and Tegan Quin, identical twins from Alberta, Canada, growing up in the height of grunge and rave culture in the 90s, well before they became the celebrated musicians and global LGBTQ icons we know today. A must for anyone who sang along to Nirvana and Ani DiFranco in their bedrooms.
In March, you can read the incredible true story of WWII spy Virginia Hall in A Woman of No Importance in hardback or in ebook – or you can download the audio edition if you’d prefer to hear Juliet Stevenson read it aloud to you. Based on brand new and extensive research, acclaimed biographer Sonia Purnell’s book brings Virginia Hall to life: an American woman with a wooden leg who overcame prejudice against her gender and disability to become the Gestapo’s most wanted Allied spy. Sarah Helm has described it as ‘a riveting narrative that both astonishes and intrigues … Purnell presents one of the most breath-taking stories yet told of female courage behind enemy lines.’
Celebrated historian Katie Hickman chronicles the varied and surprising lives of British women in India from 1600 to 1900 in She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen (May 2019). Learn about women including Charlotte Barry, who in 1783 left London a high-class courtesan and arrived in India as Mrs William Hickey, a married ‘lady’, and Flora Annie Steel, novelist and a pioneer in the struggle to bring education to purdah women.
Rebel Women (July 2019) is everything you wanted to know about women’s history from 1800 to the present – how far we’ve come, how far we have to go – by the bestselling author of The Women’s History of the World. Brave, brilliant and unrivalled in its erudition, this is exhilarating and inspiring reading for people of all ages.
Women’s Health and Society
A captivating mixture of memoir, stories from the consulting room, history and science, The Brink of Being: Talking about Miscarriage (May 2019) by Julia Bueno is a much-needed, comprehensive look at an experience that is unfortunately all too common (one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage), and yet still considered taboo. Wonderful reviews are already coming in, including this endorsement from Meaghan O’Connell, author of And Now We Have Everything: ‘An intelligent, sensitive, and utterly candid book about miscarriage. Thanks to Bueno’s radical empathy and openness, the reader comes away more consoled than heartbroken, and more curious than afraid. It’s the sort of book that women have long been searching for, and it feels like real progress. I’m so thankful she wrote it.’
In July we publish the much-anticipated Hormonal: A Journey into How Our Bodies Affect Our Minds and Why It’s Difficult to Talk About It by Eleanor Morgan. A personal investigation about women’s hormones and the link between this and mental health, Hormonal will explore everything from contraception to PMS, in relation to anxiety, depression and taboos about hysteria and the hormonal woman. Including a day-by-day chart of what happens to women’s bodies on each day of our cycle, this will be essential reading.
We’re thrilled to have a new book from Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth and Vagina, in May next year. In Outrages, Wolf illuminates a dramatic history – how a single English law in 1857 led to a maelstrom, with reverberations lasting down to our day. That law was the Obscene Publications Act and it was a crucial turning point: dissent and morality; ‘deviancy’ and ‘normalcy’; unprintable and printable were suddenly lawful concepts in the modern sense. This new law effectively invented modern obscenity.
Finally, in September we will be proud to publish Equal, an inspiring, personal and campaigning book about how we should and can fight for equal pay and other kinds of equality in the workplace, by former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie. As you probably remember, Gracie challenged the national broadcaster over equal pay after discovering huge gaps between top men and women, triggering a parliamentary inquiry and finally an apology from the BBC and a settlement which she donated to the Fawcett Society. In Equal Gracie will tell her own story, explore why it is often so hard for women to assert their value in the workplace and give practical guidance on what women, men and employers can do to achieve equality for this and future generations of women.
These are only some of the books which we can’t wait to share with readers in 2019 – watch this space for more exciting announcements to come, including a roundup of all of next year’s Virago Modern Classics.