Thursday, 22 May 2008
Off the shelf
The other week when I was having my big sort out I tackled the piles of books on our shelves. We have books piled three deep at the moment and really need to get some more shelves fitted somewhere. I had fun rearranging them and pondering over forgotten titles. At the back of the bottom shelf was my pile of well worn and much loved Virago Press books.
You can see just by looking at this very dodgy picture of a few of them just how worn they are. These books are so special to me - the stories wonderful, the covers delicious - each edition brings back so many memories of when and where I read them. I think I first stumbled upon them while I was at University, they'd been around for a while but my head had been buried for such a long time in set texts that I really didn't have much time for reading books that were not on any given reading list.
After leaving University I lived in a really grotty flat in London that I shared with a friend. I have never had so little money and had so much fun! We seemed to spend an awful lot of time reading and sharing our books, it was such a joy to read a book without thinking about having to write an essay about it. Our reading tastes were very similar and I remember passing the Virago books between us. A whole new world of women's fiction had opened up for us. It was about this time that the Women's Press books were being published and everybody was reading "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker.
One of the first Virago books that I remember reading was "The Edible Woman" by Margaret Atwood. I loved this book and quickly devoured anything else that the author had written.
My flat mate lent me "The Sugar House", oh dear I think this is her copy, which I loved and have put it beside my bed to reread again soon. I remember feeling like I was on some kind of mission trying to hunt down the earlier "Frost In May" and "The Lost Traveller". I remember where I sat and read them and being unemployed at the time I remember having the time to read them all in one go. I also remember being sucked into the trap of choosing books by their covers too.
On some other bookshelves were these books, chosen just for their covers! Aren't they lovely. I will get round to reading them one day too!
Fortunately M is as mad about old book jackets as I am so there's no fighting for shelf space for this lot.
I love this old Elizabeth David cook book that I found in a charity shop.
One of my favourite Virago Press books is "The Diary of a Provincial Lady" by E M Delafield. This and several other titles have recently been republished by the Virago Press to mark its 30th anniversary. It's such a warm and humorous book, I'm having lots of fun rereading it again every night. I love the domesticity of it and although it was written in 1930 I'm sure that if it were a blog, it would be on my favourites list and I'd be checking daily for new posts.. And if that wasn't enough to sway you, well the cover has been designed by Cath Kidston.
I read some of the Diary the other day with my cuppa and a few of these:
Fifteen minutes in a quiet sunny garden, nose buried in a book and eating biscuits that instantly remind me of days spent on a sandy beach in Normandy, watching Little Sister take her first tentative steps across the sand - it doesn't get much better!
Have a good weekend. I'm looking forward to this one ...