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Thursday 25 August 2011

Book Geekery: Virago Modern Classics

Though I'll read just about any book under the sun, I'm extremely snobbish about what gets put out on my shelves. They're strictly restricted to glossy lifestyle books, or obscure titles that I've bought second-hand. Regular paperbacks pass through my house quickly before they're given to the charity shop - they need to work damn hard before they're awarded a spot on the shelf. Well, in pretty monumental news for my little flat, the shelves have been cleared to make way for four new titles from the Virago Modern Classics range.

The publishers Virago have taken five titles (yes, I know there's only four pictured - I'll explain later) from their vast archive of novels by women and republished them as hardbacks, each with an amazing patterned cover drawn from the collection of a different designer.

My love affair with the series started with Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado: the adventures of an American girl in Paris in the '50s, packaged up with a cover featuring a Lucienne Day (possibly my all time favourite designer) pattern. There were simply too many boxes ticked for me not to buy: I got it for £9.09 on Amazon.

Then, thanks to a tip off from @annieopalfruit on Twitter, I found out the series was part of the three for two offer in Waterstones. Hotfooting it to my nearest store, clutching my birthday book voucher, I got three more titles for a total of £25.98 (or, with my birthday voucher, 98p).

The patterns are beautiful and mix of old and new designers. Florence Broadhurst takes the honours on The Tortoise and the Hare while, bringing it right up to date, a Angie Lewin design is used on The Enchanted April and Eley Kishimoto's Bunny Dance pattern on the Molly Keane title. Just to prove the serious shelf appeal of these books, here they are all lined up, looking very handsome:

You may remember that Virago did an earlier series in the same style a few years back. My gripe back then was that I'd read lots of those titles already, so it was hard for me to justify buying them again. The only one of this series I'd read is the Daphne Du Maurier, and that's the one I didn't buy. As they are Virago titles, you can bet they will be cracking reads, and I can't wait to discover some fantastic new authors through them. Each book also has an intro from a contemporary writer, the likes of Maggie O'Farrell and Hilary Mantel, so there's even more to book worm into.

In fact, my only small gripe with the series so far is the cover of The Dud Avocado. The reproduction of my beloved Lucienne Day looks a bit pixellated and just not quite as crisp as you'd want it to look, or indeed as smart as the rest of the books appear. The story itself is no dud however, it's kept me chuckling on the dark and rainy journeys into work this week. Good reading, and good looking: these Virago Modern Classics have won a place in my heart as well as on my bookshelf.


  1. Bunnies! On a book! *skips off to buy immediately*

  2. I do love when publishers make swanky editions. I wish all books looked this pretty.


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