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Where to start with Sigrid Nunez

Where to start with Sigrid Nunez

Where to start with Sigrid Nunez

Are you looking for an author whose novels are profound, witty, poignant and eminently readable? Look no further. Sigrid Nunez’s work toes the line between fiction and essay, frequently exploring themes of friendship, humanity, grief and identity. She is a writer whose novels are unique but feel entirely familiar – they are like a hug from an old friend.

‘I am committed, until one of us dies, to Nunez’s novels. I find them ideal’ Dwight Garner, New York Times

‘Sigrid Nunez is a beautiful storyteller’ Claire Kohda, author of Woman, Eating

‘Sigrid Nunez is the godmother of contemplating empathy and connection’ San Francisco Chronicle

Sigrid Nunez is the New York Times bestselling author of The Friend, winner of the 2018 National Book Award, and of seven other novels, including Salvation City, The Last of Her Kind, and What Are You Going Through. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. Her books have been translated into over thirty languages. She lives in New York City.

‘Nunez’s writing seems always to be just what I need’ Ayisha Malik

‘Long live Sigrid Nunez’ Laura Marling

In 2020 Sigrid Nunez was a guest on the first season of the OurShelves podcast. Click here to listen to her episode.

‘Once you discover Sigrid Nunez, you don’t look back’ Anne Enright



If you are new to Nunez’s work, here is a guide to the six novels Virago publish, in the order they were added to the Virago list.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez


Nunez’s most famous novel, The Friend is a moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog.

First published in 2018, Virago recently published a new edition of The Friend as part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations.

A beautiful book . . . crammed with a world of insight into death, grief, art and love’Wall Street Journal

‘Wry and moving’ Vanity Fair

An intimate, beautiful thing, humming with insight’ The Economist

When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building.

Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog’s care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unravelling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them.



The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez


The paths of two women from different walks of life intersect amid counterculture of the 1960s in this haunting and provocative novel.

First published in the US in 2005, Virago published The Last of Her Kind in 2019 – the first time this brilliant novel had been published in the UK.

‘A remarkable and disconcerting vision of a troubled time in American history, and of its repercussions for national and individual identity’ New Yorker

‘Nunez takes us beneath the surface to the essential mysteries of the human heart’ Wall Street Journal

Ann Drayton and Georgette George meet as college roommates in New York in 1968. Ann, who comes from a wealthy family, is brilliant and idealistic. Georgette, who has grown up in poverty, is mystified by Ann’s romanticization of the underprivileged class, which Georgette is hoping college will enable her to escape. An intense and difficult friendship is born. Years after a fight ends their friendship, Ann is convicted of murder. As Georgette struggles to understand what has happened, she is led back to their shared history and to an examination of the revolutionary era in which the two women came of age.



Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez


Salvation City is moving and eerily relevant novel that imagines the aftermath of a flu pandemic as seen through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy uncertain of his destiny.

First published in the US in 2010, Virago brought this book to the UK in 2020.

‘Not only timely and thought-provoking but also generous in its understanding of human nature. When the apocalypse comes, I want Nunez in my lifeboat’ Vanity Fair

‘A wise and richly humane coming-of-age novel’ O Magazine

In an America devastated by a flu pandemic, orphaned thirteen-year-old Cole finds safety and stability with an evangelical pastor and his wife. Happiness becomes disquiet as he realises the cost at which this peace comes, and the extent to which it challenges everything he knows.

Salvation City is a story of love, betrayal and forgiveness, blending a deeply affecting portrait of one young boy’s transformation with a profound meditation on belief, heroism and the true meaning of salvation.



What Are You Going Through


A luminous, heartbreaking and life-affirming novel about choosing to die.

When Virago published What Are You Going Through in 2020, it was the first new Sigrid Nunez novel to be published in hardback in the UK since 2010.

‘When I open one of Sigrid Nunez’s novels, I almost always know immediately: This is where I want to be‘ New York Times

‘Love, death, friendship, compassion and so much wisdom. I just adore Sigrid Nunez’ Paula Hawkins

‘A true pleasure to read, a novel bursting with wit, warmth and human empathy’ Independent

The woman at the heart of this unforgettable novel finds that everyone she meets has a common need: to have an audience for their experiences. And so she tries to pay attention, to imagine and listen to what those around her are going through. But then an old friend makes an extraordinary request and draws her into an intense and transformative experience of her own.



A Feather on the Breath of God by Sigrid Nunez


The first time I ever heard my father speak Chinese was at Coney Island.

A Feather on the Breath of God is a story about the tangled nature of relationships between parents and children, between language and love.

Originally published in 1995, A Feather on the Breath of God was Nunez’s first novel. This bold novel was reissued by Virago in 2021.

A young woman looks back to the world of her immigrant parents: a Chinese-Panamanian father and a German mother who settle in New York City. Growing up in a housing project in the 1950s and 1960s, the narrator escapes into dreams inspired both by her parents’ stories and by her own reading and, for a time, into the otherworldly life of ballet. A yearning homesick mother, a silent and withdrawn father, the ballet – these are the elements that shape the young woman’s imagination and her sexuality.

‘A pleasure from the first page to the last’ Jonathan Franzen‘A forceful novel by a writer of uncommon talent’ New York Times Book Review


The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez


The Vulnerables is Sigrid Nunez’s unforgettable new novel about the enduring power of connection in a world of increasing distance. Published by Virago January 2024.

Three strangers are thrown together in one Manhattan apartment: a solitary writer; a Gen Z college drop-out; and a spirited parrot named Eureka.

As the world outside descends into turmoil, the three of them must learn how to live with and care for one another. The Vulnerables reveals what happens when strangers are willing to open their hearts to each other and how far even small acts of caring can go to ease another’s distress.


‘A sharp-eyed and tender novel about human connection in a time of crisis’ Paula Hawkins

‘Beautiful and profound’ Meg Mason, author of Sorrow and Bliss

The Vulnerables is full of alive, curious poetry on the chaotic times we live in’ Sheena Patel, author of I’m a Fan

Sigrid Nunez Bundle

Click here to get your hands on a bundle of Sigrid Nunez’s books via the Virago Store, featuring four of her extraordinary novels for £30.00.