All Virago/All August

The Fountain OverflowsElizabeth and her German GardenLand of SpiceEdwardiansSummerhouse TrilogyThe Professor's House

I have many Virago titles on my piles and always meant to do at least a Virago reading week for myself. So, when I discovered  All Virago/All August, hosted by the Librarything Virago Readers Group on Heavenali’s blog, I decided I would join as well.

Half of the fun is making a list. Juliana (the blank garden) mentioned that she’ll read Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel and I decided to join her. So, that title is pretty certain but I have no clue what else I will be reading. Here are some of the titles on my piles.


Elizabeth Taylor – Angel

Writing stories that are extravagant and fanciful, fifteen-year old Angel retreats to a world of romance, escaping the drabness of provincial life. She knows she is different, that she is destined to become a feted authoress, owner of great riches and of Paradise House . . .

After reading The Lady Irania, publishers Brace and Gilchrist are certain the novel will be a success, in spite of – and perhaps because of – its overblown style. But they are curious as to who could have written such a book: ‘Some old lady, romanticising behind lace-curtains’ . . . ‘Angelica Deverell is too good a name to be true . . . she might be an old man. It would be an amusing variation. You are expecting to meet Mary Anne Evans and in Walks George Eliot twirling his moustache.’ So nothing can prepare them for the pale young woman who sits before them, with not a seed of irony or a grain of humour in her soul.

The Fountain Overflows

Rebecca West – The Fountain Overflows

Rose Aubrey is one of a family of four children. Their father, Piers, is the disgraced son of an Irish landowning family, a violent, noble and quite unscrupulous leader of popular causes. His Scottish wife, Clare, is an artist, a tower of strength, fanatically devoted to a musical future for her daughters.

This is the story of their life in south London, a life threatened by Piers’s streak of tragic folly which keeps them on the verge of financial ruin and social disgrace . . .

Elizabeth and her German Garden

Elizabeth von Arnim – Elizabeth and her German Garden

May 7th — There were days last winter when I danced for sheer joy out in my frost-bound garden in spite of my years and children. But I did it behind a bush, having a due regard for the decencies …’

Elizabeth’s uniquely witty pen records each season in her beloved garden, where she escapes from the stifling routine of indoors: servants, meals, domestic routine, and the presence of her overbearing husband …

Land of Spice

Kate O’Brien – Land of Spices

Mère Marie-Helene once turned her back on life, sealing up her heart in order to devote herself to God. Now the formidable Mother Superior of an Irish convent, she has, for some time, been experiencing grave doubts about her vocation. But when she meets Anna Murphy, the youngest-ever boarder, the little girl’s solemn, poetic nature captivates her and she feels ‘a storm break in her hollow heart’. Between them an unspoken allegiance is formed that will sustain each through the years as the Reverend Mother seeks to combat her growing spiritual aridity and as Anna develops the strength to resist the conventional demands of her background.


Vita Sackville-west – The Edwardians

Sebastian is young, handsome and romantic, the heir to a vast and beautiful English country estate. He is a fixed feature in the eternal round of lavish parties, intrigues and traditions at the cold, decadent heart of Edwardian high society. Everyone knows the role he must play, but Sebastian isn’t sure he wants the part. Position, privilege and wealth are his, if he can resist the lure of a brave new world.

Summerhouse Trilogy

Alice Thomas Ellis – The Summerhouse Trilogy

In “The Summer House” trilogy, three very different women, with three very distinct perspectives, narrate three very witty novels concerning one disastrous wedding in the offing.

“The Clothes in the Wardrobe” Nineteen-year-old Margaret feels more trepidation than joy at the prospect of her marriage to forty-year-old Syl.

“The Skeleton in the Cupboard” Syls’ mother, Mrs. Monro, doesn t know quite what to make of her son s life, but she knows Margaret should not marry him.

“The Fly in the Ointment” And then there s Lili, the free spirit who is determined that the wedding shall not happen, no matter the consequences.

The Professor's House

Willa Cather – The Professor’s House

On the eve of his move to a new, more desirable residence, Professor Godfrey St Peter finds himself in the shabby study of his former home. Surrounded by the comforting, familiar sights of his past, he surveys his life and the people he has loved: his wife Lillian, his daughters and, above all, Tom Outland, his most outstanding student and once, his son-in-law to be. Enigmatic and courageous – and a tragic victim of the Great War – Tom has remained a source of inspiration to the professor. But he has also left behind him a troubling legacy which has brought betrayal and fracture to the women he loves most . . .

Have you read any of these books? Which are the ones you liked the most? And will you join as well?

36 thoughts on “All Virago/All August

  1. Yey! I am so happy you decided to join in! It will be a delight to read Angel along with you – I haven’t read anything by Elizabeth Taylor yet! I have my eyes on The Edwardians, too, but I will try to stick to my list this time. 🙂

  2. I wish I’d known about this Virago event a little sooner as I would have been tempted to join in too. As it is, I’m pretty committed to reviews of books by women in translation during August as part of the WIT Month event. Oh well, maybe next year! I shall follow your progress with interest though – particularly looking forward to your thoughts on Angel. 🙂

    • Too bad you didn’t know about it. I was tempted by WIT and might end up reading the one or the other but I didn’t go through my piles. There are way more than Viragos. I’m looking forward to reading Angel.

  3. I have read two on this list – I have read a lot of Viragos over the years, but not so many in the last decade. The two I’ve read I’d highly recommend, Elizabeth and her German Garden and The professor’s house. If you haven’t read any Von Arnim, then I’d say hop to it and give this one a priority. She has a wonderful voice and perspective.

  4. I’ve read all the Alice Thomas Ellis’s. She’s funny and caustic. She’s very easy to read but not at all slight. Thinking about it I might give them a re-read. I used to work for the publisher Gerald Duckworth and she was married to Colin Haycraft who owned the company. I love her writing but in person found her rather alarming!

    • Alarming! How interesting. So glad to know you like her writing. And very interesting to know that you worked for the publisher.
      Easy to read but not slight is wonderful in my opinion. I’m really looking foward to reading her.

  5. Caroline, I have “The Professor’s House” at my side, spurred on by your e- mail list. Willa Cather is a favourite of mine, “Death comes for the Archbishop” being my favourite of her books that I have read so far. I have started ” The Professor’s House” several times but other books have got in the way, but I have got it off the shelf and am determined to read it now.
    I also liked ” Elizabeth and her German Garden” as I did ” The Enchanted April”, another of von Arnim’s books . I read ” The Fountain Overflows” many years ago. I know I enjoyed it but need to re- read it to familiarise myself with it.
    One or two on the list I am not familiar with so look forward to some enjoyable reads.

    • How nice to know my list made you pick up The Professor’s House. I’ve heard very good things.
      I hope we can compare impressions. I might not be able to read all the books in one month but at least three of them.
      Now that you mention it – I have read The Enchanted April. Years ago. I loved it.
      I also heard great things about The Fountain Overflows but I think it might be less accessible than the others on my list. Just a feeling. the Return of the Soldier was very complex.

  6. This looks to be wonderful list of books.

    I look forward to your commentary on the Elizabeth Taylor book. I have not read any of her works but her books so very intriguing I hope to read one myself soon.

  7. There isn’t a book on the list that isn’t interesting. Great idea.

    Angel is great, it was the first Taylor I read. Really interested to see what you make of it.

    I’ve read a different Cather (Death Comes for the Archbishop) and attempted a different West (the monumental Black Lamb and Grey Falcon). All the others I’ve at least considered – am impressed by the love for Alice Thomas Ellis in the comments, must look at her stuff in more detail.

    • I’m pretty ecrtain i won’t find a dud among these titles. I’ve read Wet’s The Return of the Soldier which was very good.
      I’m surprised by the love for Alice THomas Ellis too as she’s the one I’m the least familiar with I’ve read most of the authors with the exception of cather and her.
      I’m looking forward to Angel as I think it will be a very different Taylor.

  8. I am late in commenting, but I am glad to know that you had a great Virago month in August. I can see that you have read atleast two wonderful books by Elizabeth Taylor and Elizabeth von Arnim. So wonderful!

  9. Pingback: Kate O’Brien: Land of Spices (1941) | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

Thanks for commenting, I love to hear your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.