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Where to start with Linda Grant

Where to start with Linda Grant

Where to start with Linda Grant

Let us introduce you to the work of Linda Grant – a unique, award-winning author whose books are compelling, deeply moving and full of furious energy.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Linda Grant won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000, the Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage in 2006 and holds honorary doctorates from the University of York and Liverpool John Moores University. The Clothes on Their Backs was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008 and went on to win the South Bank Show Award; The Dark Circle was shortlisted for the 2017 Women’s Prize for Fiction; A Stranger City won the 2020 Wingate Literary Prize and The Story of the Forest was longlisted for the 2023 Wingate Literary Prize and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction 2023.

‘Whether the scene is Liverpool in the Blitz, a potato-chip factory in the prairies or a seedy hotel room in Hanoi, the writing is immediate . . . Grant approaches each character with insight and a tart sympathy’ Hilary Mantel, Literary Review

‘Grant is so good at conjuring up atmosphere and writes with earthy vivacity’ Anthony Gardner, Mail on Sunday

‘One of our best modern authors . . . I’ve never been able to stop reading any of her work once I’ve started’ Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday

‘Grant is so accomplished a novelist of recent social history . . . tender and touching’ Suzi Feay, Literary Review


With Linda Grant

In 2020, Linda Grant joined us for an episode of OurShelves. In the episode Lucy and Linda discuss Barbara Pym, Mrs. America and the importance of recalling our failures as well as our successes. Click here to listen.



If you are new to Grant’s work, here is a guide to the ten books Virago publish.


Still Here

Still Here

First published in 2002, Still Here is a magnificent novel set in Liverpool about immigration, emigration, a family quest for an old inheritance and a love affair.

‘Grant’s prose is blunt, honest, yet often beautiful and bitingly funny. Equally comfortable discussing concepts of justice and grooming routine, the voices Grant creates are striking and authentic. Her characters are irascible, witty, fierce, and full of the contradictions and blind spots that make them wholly human. This is a compelling and satisfying novel’ Rachel Seiffert

Alix, arrogant, middle-aged and angry, comes home to the derelict port of Liverpool as her mother lies dying. Irritably resigned to living alone for the rest of her life, she suddenly finds herself erotically attracted to a stranger. Joseph is an American architect who has come to the city to build a hotel. Refusing to accept that his wife has left him or the trauma of a war he once fought in, the question is whether these survivors of the battles of the seventies are meant for each other or not. And what happened to a factory in Dresden which long ago made the perfect face cream . . .


The Clothes on their Backs

The Clothes on Their Backs

First published in 2008, The Clothes on Their Backs was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and went on to win the Orange Prize in the same year.

‘A vivid, enjoyable and consistently unexpected novel’ Daily Telegraph

In a red brick mansion block off the Marylebone Road, Vivien, a sensitive, bookish girl, grows up sealed off from both past and present by her timid refugee parents. Then one morning, a glamorous uncle appears, dressed in a mohair suit with a diamond watch on his wrist and a girl in a leopard-skin hat on his arm. Why is Uncle Sándor so violently unwelcome in her parents’ home?

This is a novel about survival – both banal and heroic – and a young woman who discovers the complications, even betrayals, that inevitably accompany the fierce desire to live.

Set against the backdrop of a London from the 1950s to the present day, The Clothes on Their Backs is a wise and tender novel about the clothes we choose to wear, the personalities we dress ourselves in, and about how they define us all.

‘A beautifully written and truly moving book about the experience of growing up in Britain as a second generation immigrant’ Express


Cast Iron Shore

The Cast Iron Shore

First published in 1996, The Cast Iron Shore was Linda Grant’s debut novel. It was reissued by Virago in 2010.

‘This is a capacious and wide-ranging book, not just about individuals but about the history they move through. Whether the scene is Liverpool in the Blitz, a potato-chip factory in the prairies or a seedy hotel room in Hanoi, the writing is immediate . . . Grant approaches each character with insight and a tart sympathy’ Hilary Mantel, Literary Review

Sybil Ross has been brought up by her Jewish furrier father and style-obsessed mother as an empty-headed fashion plate. But on the worst night of Liverpool’s Blitz she uncovers a secret that leaves her disorientated. When the war is over, Sybil embarks on a voyage that leads her to the very edge of America, and to a final choice.

The Cast Iron Shore is a beautiful evocation of one woman’s journey from the 1930s to the 1990s, combining the personal and political in an outstanding first novel.


We had it so good

We Had It So Good

This multilayered novel, first published by Virago in 2011, is a thoughtful and engaging story of a London family from the late sixties to the early 2000s. We Had It So Good examines a generation which, in her own words, ‘never fully understood its own fortune’. It is a novel of observation – Grant expertly captures the fervour and the raggedness of real life.

‘Compelling, perceptive and deeply humane’ Daily Mail

‘Grant comes close to creating the perfect novel’ The Times

Born to hardworking immigrant parents in sunny, suburban Los Angeles, Stephen Newman never imagined that he would spend his adult life under the grey skies of North London, would marry Andrea for convenience and stay married, and would watch his children grow into people he cannot fathom. Over forty years, he and his friends have built lives of comfort and success, until the events of late middle age and the new century force them to realise that they have always existed in a fool’s paradise.

‘Like the best novels, it makes you examine your own moral compass alongside that of its characters’ Observer


Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant

Upstairs at the Party

‘If you go back and look at your life there are certain scenes, acts, or maybe just incidents on which everything that follows seems to depend. If only you could narrate them, then you might be understood. I mean the part of yourself that you don’t know how to explain.’

In the early seventies, a glamorous and androgynous couple known as Evie/Stevie appear out of nowhere on the isolated concrete campus of a new university. To a group of teenagers experimenting with radical ideas, they seem blown back from the future, unsettling everything and uncovering covert desires. But their mesmerising, flamboyant self-expression hides deep anxieties and hidden histories.

‘Compelling right to the very last page’ List

For Adele, who also has something to conceal, Evie becomes an obsession – an obsession which becomes lifelong after the night of Adele’s twentieth birthday party. What happened that evening and who was complicit are questions that have haunted Adele ever since. A set of school exercise books might reveal everything, but they have been missing for the past forty years.

From summers in 1970s Cornwall to London in the twenty-first century, long after she has disappeared, Evie will go on challenging everyone’s ideas of how their lives should turn out.

With her hallmark humour, intelligence and boldness, Linda Grant has written a powerful and captivating novel about secrets and the moments that shape our lives.

‘A wonderfully and perceptively written story, which rings utterly true, and as a consequence lifts the spirits’ Guardian


The Dark Circle by Linda Grant

The Dark Circle 

 Published in November 2016, The Dark Circle tells the story of tubercular East London twins, Lenny and Miriam Lynskey, sent to convalesce in a post-World War II sanatorium in Kent. It was shortlisted for the then Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2017.

‘Extraordinarily affecting’ Alex Preston, Observer

‘Grant brings the 1950s – that odd, downbeat, fertile decade between war and sexual liberation – into sharp, bright, heartbreaking focus’ Christobel Kent, Guardian

All over Britain, life is beginning again now the war is over, but for Lenny and Miriam, East End London teenage twins who have been living on the edge of the law, life is suspended – they’ve contracted tuberculosis. It’s away to the sanatorium – newly opened by the NHS – in deepest Kent for them where they will meet a very different world: among other patients, an aristocrat, a young university grad, a mysterious German woman and an American merchant seaman with big ideas about love and rebellion. They are not the only ones whose lives will be changed forever.

‘Grant is so good at conjuring up atmosphere and writes with earthy vivacity’ Anthony Gardner, Mail on Sunday

‘Read this fine, persuasive, moving novel and contemplate’ John Sutherland, The Times


A Stranger City

A Stranger City

Winner of the Wingate Literary Prize 2020 

A Stranger City, first published in August 2020 amidst the strangeness that Covid wrought on the city, is a brilliant novel about the London of today – a shifting, exciting, dangerous place where people search for the meaning of home.

When a dead body is found in the Thames, caught in the chains of HMS Belfast, it begins a search for a missing woman.

A policeman, a documentary film-maker and an Irish nurse named Chrissie all respond to the death of the unknown woman in their own ways. London is a place of random meetings, shifting relationships – and some, like Chrissie, intersect with many. The wonderful Linda 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, how all our lives intersect.

Read an extract from A Stranger City here.

Linda Grant captured the peculiarity of London during Covid in an article written for Virago – click to read London in Lockdown.

‘Reminds us of the depth and strength of the communities that are our beloved London. Thank you’ Philippe Sands

‘There’s a Dickensian quality to the opening scene and yet it’s one of the most bitingly contemporary publications of the year – a shifting, polyphonic narrative’ Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday

‘There is a richness in this novel, found in a migrant experience that is deeply embedded rather than distinct from its environment . . . a compelling read’ Jake Arnott, Guardian


The Story of the Forest

The Story of the Forest 

First published in 2022, longlisted for the 2023 Wingate Literary Prize and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction 2023, The Story of the Forest is a vibrant imagining of the tumultuous world of early twentieth-century Europe through the eyes of Mina, a young girl whose adventures begin in a deep dark forest.

‘There’s a furious energy to the novel, which constantly moves forward even as it looks sorrowfully back’ Financial Times

‘Magnificent . . . I want to press a copy on everyone I know’ Nigella Lawson

‘Epic, magnificent, beautiful . . . I couldn’t put it down’ Philippa Perry

From the flour mills of Latvia to Liverpool suburbia to post-war Soho, The Story of the Forest is about myths and memory and about how families adapt in order to survive. It is a story full of the humour and wisdom we have come to relish from this wonderful writer.

It’s 1913 and a young, carefree and recklessly innocent girl, Mina goes out into the forest on the edge of the Baltic sea and meets a gang of rowdy young men with revolution on their minds. It sounds like a fairy tale but it’s life.

The adventure leads to flight, emigration and a new land, a new language and the pursuit of idealism or happiness – in Liverpool. But what of the stories from the old country; how do they shape and form the next generations who have heard the well-worn tales?

‘Exceptional’ Richard Coles

‘Exquisite’ Mail on Sunday

‘Ambitious and moving and funny’ Tessa Hadley

Linda Grant also contributed a short story to Furies: Stories of the wicked, wild and untamed. 

Furies: Stories of the Wild, Wicked and Untamed


Click here to get your hands on four of Grant’s novels for just £30.00 with our Linda Grant bundle offer, available exclusively through the Virago Store. 

Linda Grant



People on the Street

The People On The Street: A Writer’s View Of Israel

First published in 2006, The People On The Street is Grant’s attempt to try and understand the Israeli situation.

‘Although I am not an Israeli, but a Diaspora Jew, I think that it is the eye of the novelist, who coming from the outside, can often see what others do not.

The further away anyone was from that block of Ben Yehuda street, the easier it seemed to find a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, that stubborn mess in the centre of the Middle East and the more I studied these solutions, the more I thought that they depended for their implementation on a population of table football men, painted in the colours of the two teams: blue and white for the Israelis, green, red and black for the Palestinians. All the international community had to do was to twist the levers and the little players would kick and swing and send the ball into the net, to victory.’

One block of a Tel Aviv street is the starting point for Linda Grant’s exploration of the inner dynamics of Israelis – not the government and its policies, but the people themselves, in all their variety. Iraqi shop-keepers, teenage soldiers, mob bosses, Tunisian-born settlers, Russian scientists and the father of the child victim of a suicide bomber are some of the people she meets.


the thoughtful dresser

The Thoughtful Dresser

First published in 2009, The Thoughtful Dresser is a fascinating investigation into the relationship between people and clothes, on a human rather than design level.

‘You can’t have depths without surfaces’

For centuries, an interest in clothes has been dismissed as the trivial pursuit of vain empty-headed women. Yet clothes matter, whether you are interested in fashion or not because what we choose to dress ourselves in defines our identity. For the immigrant arriving in a new country to the teenager who needs to be part of the fashion pack to the woman turning forty who must reassess her wardrobe, the truth is that how we look and what we wear tells a story.

And what a story. The Thoughtful Dresser tells us how a woman’s hat saved her life in Nazi Germany, looks at the role of department stores in giving women a public place outside the home, savours the sheer joy of finding the right dress. Here is the thinking woman’s guide to our relationship with what we wear: why we want to look our best and why it matters. The Thoughtful Dresser celebrates the pleasure of adornment.