I had to go into town today, and as it wasn't particularly busy I had a wonder around in Waterstones which was nice, but as I tend to read more older authors and this is the time of year for shifting new stuff I didn't actually see much that really looked like it was my cup of tea that I didn't already have. It's been a good year for what I'm going to call classic women writers though, and there's good stuff in the offing for 2021 as well.
Sylvia Townsend Warner - thanks to the combined championing of Helen and Handheld Press has gone from being a writer I thought I ought to like, to one I love. She's getting handsome new Penguin Modern Classic editions for quite a few of her novels, Persephone published some of her writing this year, and the two collections of cat and fairy stories that Handheld bought out are brilliant, her titles often turn up in old green Virago's in charity shops too. Now's a really good time to discover her in all her considerable variety if you haven't already done so.
Patricia Highsmith has her Centenary next year which Virago are celebrating - first off with a new collection of her short stories. This is my prompt to read a lot more of the Highsmith's I have on the shelf. I've read a few, but not enough. And whilst I'm thinking about Virago and books I haven't read, they've also expanded their classics list of books by black women, both in terms of the writers included and the range of their titles available. In simple terms I've gone from thinking that it's a genre that isn't necessarily for me, to wondering what I'm missing out on - that's one pf the things increased representation does.
Nancy Spain is another author who has joined the Virago stable, with Death Goes on Skis out now and more to come. I liked this book, mostly for how awful everybody in it managed to be. In 'Death Goes on Skis' the quantity of family members who really disliked each other felt like an effective Christmas safety valve. I'm looking forward to more of her books...
Still with Virago, there's a really handsome new edition of Rumer Godden's 'Black Narcissus' out. I was given a copy for my birthday, and the first time I find myself somewhere grand enough to sell Caron perfume I'll be either spraying Narcisse Noir on the book, or on something I can use as a bookmark. I will be watching the new adaptation, but I'm not convinced it'll come close to the brilliance of the Powell and Pressburger version from 1947. There's a few contenders for which might be Godden's best book, this one would definitely be a lot of peoples choice.
It's been a good year for Rose Macauley as well. She's another writer that I've always thought I should like but had never got very far with. Again it was Handheld press, with their edition of 'Potterism', that converted me to actual enthusiasm. They've got a few Macauley titles, Virago have more, and the British Library Women Writers series has 'Dangerous Ages'. The BL list is well worth a look and is going to be one to watch. It's a list that gets more interesting with each title with harder to find things from Elizabeth Von Arnim and E. M. Delafield and writers who will likely only be familiar to fans of Stuck in a Book who is series advisor.