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Virago is 40

A Celebration


Nearly forty years after its beginnings in 1973, Virago is the

outstanding international publisher of books by women. The

cultural, political and economic landscape has changed

dramatically in the last four decades, but Virago has remained

true to its original aims: to put women centre stage; to explore

the untold stories of their lives and history; to break the silence

around many women’s experiences; to publish breathtaking new

fiction, alongside a rich list of rediscovered classics; and, above

all, to champion women’s talent.

To celebrate Virago’s fortieth birthday, we have asked 40 of our

authors to write something for us inspired by the number 40.

Beyond that, they can write what they please: a poem, a story,

an essay, a fragment of autobiography, a fable, a list . . . Virago is

40 will be something very special and surprising, as our writers

continue to engage us, challenge us, tease us and confound us,

as they have done from the very beginning.



For Promotional Use Only


The Engagements

J. Courtney Sullivan

Forever isn’t for everyone . . .

1947: Mary Frances Gerety, a young copywriter in an eminent

advertising agency, has to convince the world of two things – that

marriage means a diamond ring on every woman’s finger, and that

she is as good at her job as any man. And then, in one moment of

brilliant inspiration, Mary Frances writes down four words which

will achieve both her aims . . .

Moving from a Harvard swim-meet in 1927 to the three-martini

lunches of 1940s advertising, from the back streets of 1980s

Boston to an exquisite Parisian music shop in 2003, The

Engagements is a novel about love, marriage, commitment and

betrayal; it is as sharp, as fiery and as beautiful as the stone we

have taken to represent our dreams.

• A panoramic novel about the invention of

modern marriage

• A brilliant plot that draws a connection

between characters across a span of nearly

a century

• For readers who loved American Wife, The

Marriage Plot and Rules of Civility

About the author

J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of

the New York Times bestselling

novels Commencement and Maine.

Her writing has appeared in the

New York Times Book Review, the

Chicago Tribune, New York

magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure and

the New York Observer, among

others. She is a contributor to the

essay anthology The Secret

Currency of Love, and co-editor of

Click: When We Knew We Were

Feminists. She lives in Brooklyn,

New York.



General & Literary Fiction




Valentine Grey

Sandi Toksvig

From one of the nation’s best-loved writers and performers

comes a wonderful novel about a spirited young girl who goes to

war as a young man

London 1897 and a young girl, Valentine Grey, arrives in England.

Brought up in remote and sunny India, she finds the damp air, the

cold, and being forced into corsets and skirts insufferable. The

only bright spot: her exciting cousin, Reggie.

Reggie, and his lover Frank seek out adventure in the clandestine

bars and streets of London, and are happy to include Valentine in

their secret, showing her theatres, gardens – even teaching her

how to ride a bicycle.

And then comes the Boer War and Reggie’s father volunteers him;

the empire must be defended. But it won’t be Reggie who dons

the Volunteer Regiment’s garb. Valentine takes her chance, puts

on her cousin’s uniform, leaving Reggie behind and heads off to

war. And for a long while it’s glorious and liberating for both

cousins – but war is not glorious and in Victorian London,

homosexuality is not liberating . . .

• A wonderful new direction from Sandi

Toksvig, one of our best-loved writers and


• A fascinating look at gender, cross-dressing

and war

• ‘Toksvig’s shining creation, Valentine Grey,

[is] a courageous and captivating

character – begging for a sequel’

– Lucy Beresford, Sunday Telegraph

About the author

After graduating from Cambridge,

Sandi Toksvig went into theatre as a

writer and performer. Well known

for her television and radio work as

a presenter, writer and actor, she

has written more than twenty

books for children and adults. She

also writes for theatre and

television: her film The Man,

starring Stephen Fry and Zoë

Wanamaker was broadcast on Sky

Arts in June 2012, and her play

Bully Boy, starring Anthony

Andrews, opened the St James

Theatre, London, in autumn 2012.

She is the new Chancellor of

Portsmouth University. Sandi

Toksvig lives in London and Kent.



Modern Fiction




Once Upon a Time There Was a


Asham Award-winning Stories


A collection of some of the most original and dazzling short

stories, from writers old and new

Virago Press and the Asham Award, the foremost prize for stories

by women, present a collection of tales to send you to places

you’ve never been before . . .

Here are tales of people who travel far and those who stay at

home and dream; of strange things in suitcases; of roads that

should not have been taken; of exotic cities and shabby towns.

Some are running away, and some are travelling to come home.

With new stories from well-known writers, including Helen

Dunmore, and an Angela Carter fable, this is a book to tuck in your

backpack, your valise, or to enjoy deep in your armchair, for no

one can fail to be hooked by those beguiling words: once upon a

time there was a traveller . . .

• The Sussex home of Virginia Woolf – Asham

House – has been the source and support

of this celebrated prize since 1995

• This year’s collection was judged by Helen

Dunmore, Sara Wheeler and Virago’s

Lennie Goodings



Short Stories




The Glass Ocean

Lori Baker

‘The Glass Ocean is that rarest of things, a historical novel, or at

least a novel set in history, that is also a work of art. Lori Baker is

a captivating storyteller, and her prose has the flash and fire of

molten glass’ John Banville

The Glass Ocean is a story of becoming. Flame-haired, six-foot-two

in stocking feet, newly orphaned Carlotta Dell’oro recounts the

lives of her parents – solitary glassmaker Leonardo Dell’oro and

beautiful, unreachable Clotilde Girard – and discovers in their

loves and losses, their omissions and obsessions, the

circumstances of her abandonment and the weight of her


With a master artisan’s patience and exquisite craft, debut

novelist Lori Baker has created a gem-like Victorian world, a place

where mistakes of the past reappear in the future, art can

destroy, and family is not to be trusted.

• This wonderful debut novel, already lauded

by John Banville and Thomas Pynchon, will

appeal to fans of Wide Sargasso Sea

• ‘An adventure of dreamlike momentum and

romantic intensity, brought alive by a

storyteller with uncanny access to the

Victorians, not only to the closely woven

texture of their days but also to the

dangerous nocturnal fires being attended

to in their hearts’

– Thomas Pynchon

About the author

Lori Baker is the author of Crash

and Tell: Stories; Crazy Water: Six

Fictions, which won the Mamdouha

S. Bobst Literary Award for

emerging writers; and Scraps. She

has taught fiction writing,

journalism and composition at

Brown University, Boston College,

and Wheaton College in Norton,

Massachusetts. She lives and works

in Providence, Rhode Island.

This is her debut novel, to be

published in the US by Penguin.



General & Literary Fiction




Her Brilliant Career

Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties

Rachel Cooke

Women and the fifties – you will be amazed

In 1956, a widow, Mrs Violet Wright, was accused of the murder

of her baby twins; according to the prosecution, she had

deliberately set fire to the houseboat in which they had burned to

death. At her trial, Wright’s defence saved her from the gallows,

having convinced the jury that she would not have gone to bed in

her curlers if she had planned the fire: not even a murderer, it was

argued, would want to face firemen and police officers in her

curlers. For many, such a defence neatly encapsulates the fifties: a

conservative, inward-looking decade, during which women

retreated once more to the safety of the kitchen. But Mrs Wright

was defended by Rose Heilbron QC, the first woman to be

appointed silk in Britain, the first woman to defend in a murder

trial – and a tabloid celebrity.

In Her Brilliant Career, Rachel Cooke tells the story of Heilbron and

some of her extraordinary contemporaries: women whose

pioneering professional lives and flexible private lives paved the

way for feminism and all that followed. Muriel Box, film director.

Betty Box, film producer. Margery Fish, plantswoman. Patience

Gray, cook. Alison Smithson, architect. Sheila van Damm, rally-car

driver and theatre owner. Nancy Spain, journalist and radio

personality. Joan Werner Laurie, editor. Jacquetta Hawkes,


• With her usual wit, warmth and insight,

Rachel Cooke will look at women whose

jobs ranged from lawyer to designer,

playwright to rally-car driver and gardener,

plus many more

About the author

Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter

on the Sunday Times. She is now a

writer at the Observer. At the 2006

British Press Awards, she was

named Interviewer of the Year.

This is the fifties retold: vivid, surprising and – most of all –









A New Biography

Naomi Wolf

The book that got everyone talking

An astonishing new work that radically changes how we think

about, talk about and understand the vagina – and consequently

how we think about women and sexuality – from Naomi Wolf, one

of our most respected cultural critics and author of the modern

classic, The Beauty Myth.

About the author

Through her four groundbreaking

books, Naomi Wolf has given voice

to women of all ages, helping to

reveal the social myths that

conspire to keep women struggling

against inequality.

Vagina: A New Biography combines cutting-edge science with

cultural history to explore the role of female desire and how it

affects female identity, creativity and confidence. Provocative and

engaging, positive and inspiring, this book brings to light female

impulses, history and dreams – and in exploring what women

really need, it goes to the very core of what it means to be female.

For any woman who wants to understand her body and her mind

and the culture that defines her – Vagina is essential reading.

• The New York Times called The Beauty

Myth one of the most important books of

the twentieth century

• ‘Wolf’s tome could not be better timed . . .

Wolf is exploring territory we haven’t heard

about since Germaine Greer in the 1970s’

– Viv Groskop, Independent on Sunday







Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst

The Making of a Garden

Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven

A lavish hardback celebrating one of Britain’s best-loved gardens

From 1946 to 1957 Vita Sackville-West, the poet, bestselling

author of All Passion Spent and maker of Sissinghurst, wrote a

weekly column in the Observer depicting her life there, showing

her to be one of the most visionary horticulturalists of the

twentieth century.

Edited by Sarah Raven, Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst draws on

this extraordinary archive, revealing Vita’s most-loved – and mosthated

– flowers, as well as offering practical advice for gardeners.

Often funny, and written with colour and originality, it also

describes details of the trials and tribulations of crafting a place of

beauty and elegance within the confines of walls and hedges.

Sissinghurst has gone on to become one of the most visited and

inspirational gardens in the world and this wonderful book,

illustrated with drawings and original photographs throughout,

shows us how it was created and how gardeners everywhere can

use some of the ideas from both Sarah Raven and Vita Sackville-


• Will include twenty-four gorgeous colour

photographs of the gardens

• Sissinghurst is one of the most visited and

inspirational gardens in the world

About the author

Sarah Raven is a writer, cook,

broadcaster and teacher. She runs a

mail-order company, Sarah Raven’s

Kitchen and Garden, and holds

cooking, growing and gardening

courses at her school at Perch Hill in

East Sussex. With her husband, the

writer Adam Nicolson, and family,

she divides her time between there

and Sissinghurst in Kent.



Gardening,Gardening: General





At Break of Day

Elizabeth Speller

Captivating and elegant, At Break of Day tells of the tragedies of

war as lives cross, dreams are shattered and futures altered as

the hours pass on one fateful day during the Great War

In the summer of 1913, the world seems full of possibility for four

very different young men.

Young Jean-Baptiste dreams of the day he’ll leave his Picardy

home and row down-river to the sea.

Earnest and hard-working Frank has come to London to take

up an apprenticeship in Regent Street. His ambitions are

self-improvement, a wife and, above all, a bicycle.

Organ scholar Benedict is anxious yet enthralled by the sensations

of his synaesthesia. He is uncertain both about God and the

nature of his friendship with the brilliant and mercurial Theo.

Harry has turned his back on his wealthy English family, has a

thriving business in New York and a beautiful American wife. But

his nationality is still British.

Three years later, on the first of July 1916, their lives have been

taken in entirely unexpected directions. Now in uniform, they are

waiting for dawn on the battlefield of the Somme. The generals

tell them that victory will soon be theirs but the men are

accompanied by regrets, fears and secrets as they move towards

the line.

• The Return of Captain John Emmett was a

Richard & Judy Summer Book Club pick,

selling more than 62,000 copies in

paperback (TCM).

• The new novel plays to all Elizabeth

Speller’s strengths as a writer and is sure to

be a hit with her many fans.

• Will appeal to fans of Pat Barker’s

Regeneration trilogy, and her most recent,

Toby’s Room, as well as those who enjoyed

Louise Young’s My Dear I Wanted to Tell


• ‘The new Birdsong – only better’

– Independent, Praise for John Emmett

About the author

Elizabeth Speller lived in Berlin,

Rome and Paris before reading

Classics at Cambridge. She has

written for publications as varied as

the Independent, Financial Times,

Big Issue and Vogue and has taught

at the universities of Cambridge,

Birmingham, Bristol and Warwick.

She divides her time between

Gloucestershire and Greece.

Her debut novel was the bestselling

The Return of Captain John Emmett,

which was both an Orange New

Writers pick and a Richard & Judy

Summer Book Club selection. This

was followed by The Strange Fate

of Kitty Easton, which also featured

Laurence Bartram.



Modern Fiction




Losing the Dead

Lisa Appignanesi

Reissued by Virago for the first time, this is a moving, rarely told

story of the Jews who survived outside the camps, from

bestselling author Lisa Appignanesi

As her mother slipped into the darkness of old age, Lisa

Appignanesi began to realise how little she knew of the reality

behind the tales she had heard since childhood. She had shunned

her parents’ stories of war-time Poland, but now she set out to

find the truth. In her quest, she flew to Warsaw – imagining and

revisiting a past she never knew.

This is the moving story of the Jews who survived outside the

camps, but it is also the author’s own voyage of self-discovery – a

family memoir of the rites of passage, of emigration, childhood,

and growing up an outsider in a closed community.

• First published in 1999, this is Virago’s

reissue of Lisa Appignanesi’s stunning

family memoir

• Mad, Bad and Sad was shortlisted for four

awards, won one of them, and sold over

12,000 copies (TCM)

• ‘Profound and tragic . . . a powerful and

tender memorial’

– Independent

About the author

Lisa Appignanesi was born in Poland

and grew up in France and Canada.

A novelist and writer, she is former

deputy director of the Institute of

Contemporary Arts in London,

former President of English PEN and

current chair of the Freud Museum.

In 2013 Lisa Appignanesi was

awarded the OBE.



Biography & Autobiography:

Literary, The Holocaust




The Last Kings of Sark

Rosa Rankin-Gee

A stunning debut novel about complicated love, only children

and missed opportunities, from an extraordinary new writer

‘My name is Jude. And because of Law, Hey and the Obscure, they

thought I was a boy.’

Jude is twenty-one when she flies in a private plane to Sark, a tiny

carless Channel Island, the last place in Europe to abolish

feudalism. She has been hired for the summer to give tuition to a

rich local boy called Pip. But when she arrives, the family is

unsettling – Pip is awkward, over-literal, and adamant he doesn’t

need a tutor, and upstairs, his enigmatic mother Esmé casts a

shadow over the house.

About the author

Rosa Rankin-Gee grew up in Kensal

Rise, London, but now lives by the

Parc de Belleville in Paris. In 2010

she was one of Esquire magazine’s

‘75 Brilliant Young Brits’. In 2011

she won Shakespeare & Company’s

international Paris Literary Prize.

Rosa Rankin-Gee runs a night-bird

version of a book club, where up to

three hundred people come to

swap books and drink cocktails in

the former home of Georges Bizet.

She also does freelance copywriting.

She is twenty-six.

Enter Sofi: the family’s holiday cook, a magnetic, mercurial Polish

girl with appalling kitchen hygiene, who sings to herself and sleeps

naked. When the father of the family goes away on business, Pip’s

science lessons are replaced by midday rosé and scallopsmuggling,

and summer begins. Soon something surprising starts

to touch the three together.

• The Last Kings of Sark will appeal to fans of

Maggie O’Farrell and Susie Boyt

But those strange, golden weeks cannot last for ever. Later, in

Paris, Normandy and London, they find themselves looking for the

moment that changed everything.



General & Literary Fiction




The Charioteer

Mary Renault

Originally published in the United States in 1959, The Charioteer

is a bold, unapologetic portrayal of male homosexuality during

World War II that stands with Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar

and Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories as a monumental

work in gay literature

After enduring an injury at Dunkirk during World War II, Laurie

Odell is sent to a rural veterans’ hospital in England to convalesce.

There he befriends the young, bright Andrew, a conscientious

objector serving as an orderly. As they find solace and

companionship together in the idyllic surroundings of the

hospital, their friendship blooms into a discreet, chaste romance.

Then one day, Ralph Lanyon, a mentor from Laurie’s schoolboy

days, suddenly reappears in Laurie’s life, and draws him into a

tight-knit social circle of world-weary gay men. Laurie is forced to

choose between the sweet ideals of innocence and the distinct

pleasures of experience.

• 2013 is the sixtieth anniversary of this

ground-breaking book that has been out of

print in the UK for three decades

About the author

Mary Renault (1905–83) was born

in London and educated at St

Hugh’s, Oxford.

She trained as a nurse at Oxford’s

Radcliffe Infirmary, where she met

her lifelong partner, Julie Mullard.

Her first novel, Purposes of Love,

was published in 1937. In 1948,

after North Face won a MGM prize

worth $150,000, she and Mullard

emigrated to South Africa. There

Renault was able to write

forthrightly about homosexual

relationships for the first time – in

her masterpiece The Charioteer

(1953), and then in her first

historical novel, The Last of the

Wine (1956). Renault’s vivid novels

set in the ancient world brought her

worldwide fame. In 2010 Fire From

Heaven was shortlisted for the Lost

Booker of 1970.


Classic Fiction, General &

Literary Fiction




Virago Paperback Highlights

Pub Month: July

ISBN: 9781844088263

Modern Fiction



Pub Month: September

ISBN: 9781844088119

Biography & Autobiography:




Pub Month: July

ISBN: 9781844088652

General & Literary Fiction




Virago Modern Classics

Barbara Comyns-her novels reissued with beautiful new jackets and


The Vet’s Daughter

Introduced by Jane Gardam

Pub Month: July

ISBN: 9781844088386

Modern Fiction



Our Spoons came from


Introduced by Maggie O’ Farrell

Pub Month: July

ISBN: 9781844089277

Modern Fiction



Sisters by a River

Introduced by Barbara Trapido

Pub Month: July

ISBN: 9781844088386

Modern Fiction



About the author

Barbara Comyns (1909–92) was born

in Bidford-on-Avon in Warwickshire.

She was an artist and writer, worked

in advertising, dealt in old cars and

antiques, bred poodles and

developed property. She was twice

married, and she and her second

husband lived in Spain for eighteen

years, returning to the UK in the

early 1970s. She is the author of

eleven books, including Sisters by a

River (1947), Our Spoons Came from

Woolworths (1950), The Vet’s

Daughter (1959), The Skin Chairs

(1962) and A Touch of Mistletoe

(1967). She died in Shropshire in



Virago Modern Classics

One Pair of Feet

Monica Dickens

Pub Month: August

ISBN: 9781844089086

Biography &

Autobiography: General



The Public Image

Muriel spark

Pub Month: December

ISBN: 9781844089673

Classic Fiction



Angela Thirkell

Pomfret Towers

Pub Month: November

ISBN: 9781844089710

General & Literary Fiction




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