As the Christmas holidays draw near, we all look for that perfect winter book that we can hunker down with and enjoy with mulled wine, mince pies and a warm fire. Here at Virago we've been thinking about which books of ours might fit the bill, and we thought we'd share with you our favourites. Please let us know your choices below!
The chance to have a lovely long time to read at Christmas has got to be rewarded with the perfect book. I recommend two novels we published this autumn, both with impassioned witty women at their centre – though they couldn't be more different. The Small Hours by Susie Boyt is a wonderful, dark contemporary novel of great hope and spirit set in a school and Valentine Grey by Sandi Toksvig is a great and thoughtful adventure story about a Victorian girl who dons her cousin's uniform and heads off to war.
For me the perfect winter holiday read has to be beautifully written, pure escapism and preferably glamorously jacketed. This is also the time of year when you can finally relax with all those hardbacks too heavy for your morning commute, and all the classics or hidden treasures that weren't in the bestseller charts or didn't make your reading group shortlist. So my recommendation for a book to read this holiday season would have to be one of my two favourite hardback VMC's — Jacqueline Susann's cult sensation The Valley of the Dolls or Elaine Dundy's gorgeous roman à clef The Dud Avocado. Both books whisk the reader away to glamorous locales (1940’s Hollywood in 'Valley' and 1950s Paris in 'Avocado'), both are peopled with unforgettable characters and both follow women embarking on their own brilliantly realised soap opera-esque escapades with dry wit and plenty of drama.
It's cold. It's dark. And if you venture outside the front door, it is quite frankly pretty miserable out there. But it could be worse – you could be shivering on a lifeboat out at sea for three weeks with twenty-one other (not entirely trustworthy) people for company. And Charlotte Rogan's debut novel is so atmospheric and skillfully written, that you will imagine you are there with them. The Lifeboat caused quite a stir when it was published earlier this year, with the book's mysterious narrator Grace coming in for much discussion among readers. And that sense of mystery and tension (along with the fact it will make you feel glad you are safe and warm indoors) makes it my perfect Christmas read.
My Virago Christmas read would the twentieth century classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. If you haven’t yet read this masterpiece I urge you to do so this holiday season, and if you have, I recommend reading again! It’s one of those rare novels where you notice so many more things a second time. It’s perfect for wrapping yourself up in a blanket in a cozy chair by the fire. The story is truly mesmerising with the narrative delicately guiding you through all the twists and turns. It’s perfectly atmospheric for a winter read and will keep you guessing until the last page.
My perfect Christmas read has to be Shelter. The book tells the tale of two sisters, who lose their safety conscious father in a tragic accident. Their mother struggles to support them on her own, and promising to return, she leaves them with an elderly couple and disappears. Left with no parents, the two sisters are forced to rely on one another to create their own home. But Maggie never stops wondering about her mother, and when her sister, Jenny, finds herself in trouble, Maggie sets off to find their mother. The surreal setting and quiet narration keeps you gripped in a way that requires a cold day outside, a roaring fire and a comfy armchair to camp out in until the book is finished. The resilient narrator Maggie is at once heartbreakingly innocent and wise beyond her years and it is impossible not to sympathise with her . With the harsh landscape of rugged Northern Canada beautifully offsetting the troubles which befall Maggie and her sister, Shelter is a mysterious and spellbinding read that is perfect for those cold winter days and crisp winter nights.
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