The Peppermint Pig
By Nina Bawden, Alan Marks
'Warm and funny, this tale of a pint-size pig and the family he saves will take up a giant space in your heart' KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE'What a consummate storymaker Nina Bawden is' MICHAEL MORPURGOWINNER OF THE GUARDIAN AWARD FOR CHILDREN'S FICTION'D'ya want a peppermint pig, Mrs Greengrass?'Poll looked at the milkman, thinking of sweets, but there was a real pig poking its snout out of the milkman's coat pocket. It was the tiniest pig she had ever seen. 'What's a peppermint pig?''Runt of the litter. Too small for the sow to raise. He'd only get trampled in in the rush.'Mother took the pig from him and held it firmly while it kicked and squealed. 'Well, he seems strong enough. And even runts grow.''Oh,' Poll said. 'Oh, Mother.' She stroked the small, wriggling body. 'Theo,' she shouted, 'Look what we've got!'It is a difficult year for the Greengrasses. Poll's father has lost his job and gone overseas, the family are living off the charity of two aunts, and Poll and her brother Theo just can't seem to keep out of trouble. It takes a tiny, mischievous pig to bring laughter back into their lives.This is a collection of the best children's literature, curated by Virago, and will be coveted by children and adults alike. These are timeless tales with beautiful covers, that will be treasured and shared across the generations. Some titles you will already know; some will be new to you, but there are stories for everyone to love, whatever your age. Our list includes Nina Bawden (Carrie's War, The Peppermint Pig), Rumer Godden (The Dark Horse, An Episode of Sparrows), Joan Aiken (The Serial Garden, The Gift Giving) E. Nesbit (The Psammead Trilogy, The Bastable Trilogy, The Railway Children), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Little Princess,The Secret Garden) and Susan Coolidge (The What Katy Did Trilogy). Discover Virago Children's Classics.
The Phoenix and the Carpet
By E. Nesbit, H. R. Millar
'I love her books - particularly the Five Children and It sequence' - Neil GaimanTHIS IS THE SECOND BOOK IN THE PSAMMEAD TRILOGY, FOLLOWING FIVE CHILDREN AND ITContains all of the original illustrations by H. R. Millar, beautifully reproduced.'For the egg was now red-hot, and inside it something was moving. Next moment there was a soft cracking sound; the egg burst in two, and out of it came a flame-coloured bird...'When a stone egg rolls out of the old rug that has been bought for the nursery, the children think nothing of it. A lovely glowing yellow, they place it on the mantelpiece to brighten up the room. But when the egg accidentally drops into the fire, a strange thing happens: out hatches a phoenix, resplendent in golden feathers - and very vain. If that weren't enough of a surprise, it tells them that their carpet is magic: it will take them to any place that they wish to visit - over their dusty London streets to the French coast, to tropical islands and an Indian bazaar. Guiding them throughout their adventures - though he's often more a hindrance than a help - is their new friend, the phoenix. 'The cheerful, child-centred anarchy of Five Children and It is still my inspiration and delight' Kate Saunders, Guardian'My all-time favourite classic children's author' Jacqueline Wilson'If Britain is to children's fantasy as Brazil is to football, then Edith Nesbit is our Pele - endlessly surprising and inventive. But she is more than that. There were fantasy writers before Edith Nesbit but she is the one that brought the magical and the mundane together in a moment of nuclear fusion. She opened the door in the magic wardrobe, pointed the way to platform nine and three quarters. She even had a hand in building the Tardis. And these are among her minor achievements. She is also simply the funniest writer we have ever had, while being the one who could most easily and sweetly break your heart with a phrase. Just try saying "Daddy oh my Daddy" without catching your breath. She made the magic worlds feel as near as the Lewisham Road and she bathed the Lewisham Road in magic' Frank Cottrell-Boyce This collection of the best in children's literature, curated by Virago, will be coveted by children and adults alike. These are timeless tales with beautiful covers, that will be treasured and shared across the generations. Some titles you will already know; some will be new to you, but there are stories for everyone to love, whatever your age. Our list includes Nina Bawden (Carrie's War, The Peppermint Pig), Rumer Godden (The Dark Horse, An Episode of Sparrows), Joan Aiken (The Serial Garden, The Gift Giving) E. Nesbit (The Psammead Trilogy, The Bastable Trilogy, The Railway Children), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Little Princess,The Secret Garden) and Susan Coolidge (The What Katy Did Trilogy). Discover Virago Children's Classics.
Peace Breaks Out
By Angela Thirkell
Barsetshire in the war years. True to the theory that a positive change creates almost as much stress as a negative one, the outbreak of Peace is met with trepidation. The Government falls, Mr Adams contests Anne Fielding's father for MP, and bread is not delivered (somehow equivalent events). However the main action focuses on David Leslie who, at thirty-nine, is still meddling with the feelings of every available young woman until Rose Bingham, of suitable age and circumstances, 'sorts him out', object: Matrimony. Around the edges we encounter Mr Scratcherd the local 'artist' and his formidable niece who harangues him in non-stop paragraphs; the continuing feud with the Palace as the Bishop's request for a song in honour of 'our Wonderful Red Comrades' is countered by a hymn whose tune is that of the Russian Imperial National Anthem; and young George Halliday's infatuation with a totally oblivious, very middle-aged, Lady Graham.
People Who Knock on the Door
By Patricia Highsmith
People Who Knock on the Door, is a tale about blind faith and the slippery notion of justice that lies beneath the peculiarly American veneer of righteousness.'A border zone of the macabre, the disturbing, the not quite accidental . . . Highsmith achieves the effect of the occult without any resources to supernatural machinery' New York Times Book ReviewIn a pitiless story of prying suburban self-righteousness, Patricia Highsmith introduces the Alderman family as they descend into moral crisis. When small-town insurance salesman Richard Alderman becomes a born-again Christian, his once tight-knit family quickly begins to rip apart at the seams. He and his youngest son, Robbie, embrace their newfound faith, while his elder son Arthur rejects it. Caught in the middle of the ensuing web of lies, his wife, Lois, tries to keep the family together, but when the church elders start to interfere in Arthur's love life, events spiral toward violence. In this masterful late work, Highsmith weaves a powerful tale about blind faith and the peculiar ideas of justice that lie underneath the veneer of respectability.
The Praise Singer
By Mary Renault
'Mary Renault's portraits of the ancient world are fierce, complex and eloquent, infused at every turn with her life-long passion for the Classics. Her characters live vividly both in their own time, and in ours' MADELINE MILLERMary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us' HILARY MANTELIn the story of the great lyric poet Simonides, Mary Renault brings alive a time in Greece when tyrants kept an unsteady rule and poetry, music, and royal patronage combined to produce a flowering of the arts. Born into a stern farming family on the island of Keos, Simonides escapes his harsh childhood through a lucky apprenticeship with a renowned Ionian singer. As they travel through 5th century B.C. Greece, Simonides learns not only how to play the kithara and compose poetry, but also how to navigate the shifting alliances surrounding his rich patrons. He is witness to the Persian invasion of Ionia, to the decadent reign of the Samian pirate king Polykrates, and to the fall of the Pisistratids in the Athenian court. Along the way, he encounters artists, statesmen, athletes, thinkers, and lovers, including the likes of Pythagoras and Aischylos. Using the singer's unique perspective, Renault combines her vibrant imagination and her formidable knowledge of history to establish a sweeping, resilient vision of a golden century.'There's much to say about her interweaving of myth and history and, just as interestingly, there's much to wonder at in the way she fills in the large dark spaces where we know next to nothing about the times she describes . . . an important and wonderful writer . . . she set a course into serious-minded, psychologically intense historical fiction that today seems more important than ever' - Sam Jordison, Guardian
The Paying Guests
By Sarah Waters
'There came the splash of water and the rub of heels as Mrs Barber stepped into the tub. After that there was a silence, broken only by the occasional echoey plink of drips from the tap... 'Frances had been picturing her lodgers in purely mercenary terms - as something like two great waddling shillings. But this, she thought, was what it really meant to have paying guests: this odd, unintimate proximity, this rather peeled-back moment, where the only thing between herself and a naked Mrs Barber was a few feet of kitchen and a thin scullery door. An image sprang into her head: that round flesh, crimsoning in the heat.'It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.For with the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the 'clerk class', the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.This is vintage Sarah Waters: beautifully described with excruciating tension, real tenderness, believable characters, and surprises. It is above all a wonderful, compelling story.
The Pink Suit
By Nicole Mary Kelby
On 22 November 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy accompanied her husband to Dallas, Texas, wearing a pink suit that was one of his favourites. But as Jackie was greeted by ecstatic crowds that sunny morning, nobody could have dreamt just how iconic the suit would soon become.In The Pink Suit, Nicole Mary Kelby has written a novel imagining the life of the garment that became emblematic of the moment the American Dream turned to ashes. Kate is an Irish seamstress working in the back room at Chez Ninon, an exclusive Manhattan atelier entrusted with creating much of Jackie's wardrobe. Kate and the First Lady share roots in rural Ireland, and although their lives could not be more different, Kate honours their connection by using the muslin toiles for each piece she sews for Mrs Kennedy to fashion an identical garment - in a different fabric - for her own niece.Then comes the terrible day that pictures of Kate's handiwork,splashed with the president's blood, are beamed all over the world.The Pink Suit is a fascinating novel about politics, fashion, history and the people who have a hand in it - from the backrooms of a Manhattan dressmaker's to the Blue Room at the White House.
The Persian Boy
By Mary Renault
'Renault's masterpiece. One of the greatest historical novels ever written' SARAH WATERSIn the second novel of her stunning trilogy, Mary Renault vividly imagines the life of Alexander the Great, the charismatic leader whose drive and ambition created a legend.The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander's life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas is sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but finds freedom with Alexander the Great after the Macedon army conquers his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper. After Alexander's mysterious death, we are left wondering if this Persian boy understood the great warrior and his ambitions better than anyone.'Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us' Hilary Mantel'The Alexander Trilogy stands as one of the most important works of fiction in the 20th century . . . it represents the pinnacle of [Renault's] career . . . Renault's skill is in immersing us in their world, drawing us into its strangeness, its violence and beauty. It's a literary conjuring trick like all historical fiction - it can only ever be an approximation of the truth. But in Renault's hands, the trick is so convincing and passionately conjured. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Persian Boy . . . Bagoas is a brilliant narrator. Rendered unreliable by his passion, he is always believeable and sympathetic . . . His Persian background allows him to see the king and his Macedonians through the questioning eyes of an alien' - Antonia Senior, The Times
Purposes of Love
By Mary Renault
Vivian, a student nurse, chose her profession as a challenge, both to her spirit and to her permanently exhausted body; Mic immerses himself in his work at the hospital to ward off the emotional wounds of an unhappy childhood. Through Jan, Viv's beloved older brother, they meet, and their friendship turns into a secret romance. Secret because, if discovered, it would cost them their jobs.Despite the discipline and rigid hierarchy imposed by the hospital, their passion takes root, but between them hangs the tantalising and enigmatic shadow of Jan.
The Public Image
By Muriel Spark
Annabel Christopher is every inch the star: a glamorous actress with a devoted, handsome husband. To keep the paparazzi and her adoring public under her spell, her perfect image must be carefully cultivated, whatever the cost. Beneath the facade, though, her husband cannot bear her or their vapid existence. Envious of her success, he plots his revenge and stages a scandal even Annabel will find a challenge to recover from.
By Angela Thirkell
Pomfret Towers, Barsetshire seat of the earls of Pomfret, was constructed, with great pomp and want of concern for creature comforts, in the once-fashionable style of Sir Gilbert Scott's St Pancras station. It makes a grand setting for a house party at which gamine Alice Barton and her brother Guy are honoured guests, mixing with the headstrong Rivers family, the tally-ho Wicklows and, most charming of all, Giles Foster, nephew and heir of the present Lord Pomfret. But whose hand will Mr Foster seek in marriage, and who will win Alice's tender heart? Angela Thirkell's classic 1930s comedy is lively, witty and deliciously diverting.
By Nell Dunn
Joy - also called Blossom, Sunshine and Blondie by the men in her life - walks down Fulham Broadway carrying her week-old baby, Jonny. She is twenty-one, with bleached hair, high suede shoes, and a head full of dreams. Her husband Tom is a thief and on the proceeds of a job they move to a luxury flat - 'the world was our oyster and we chose Ruislip'. Then Tom is sent to prison, leaving Joy and Jonny to move in with Auntie Emm. This is Joy's story: an exuberant, pink-lipsticked, tale of London life, love and young motherhood in the sixties...
By Rebecca Harrington
Meet Penelope O'Shaughnessy, Harvard freshman.Armed with her Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights poster and party conversation modelled on the repartee of Noel Coward, Penelope is ready to take her place on campus. But where are the kindred spirits who will share her passion for Morse code and Tetris? Penelope's roommates, over-achieving Emma and the sullen Lan, seem to have already got to grips with university life, and she is finding it hard to work out if the dashing but elusive Gustav matches up to her hero, Hercule Poirot.Penelope follows our heroine's progress through her first year among America's elite, as she navigates the mysteries of life, love, inappropriate tutors, marionette operation and how to kiss on both cheeks and avoid disaster.
The Purple Shroud
By Stella Duffy
Once, Theodora was little more than a slave, the daughter of a bear-keeper, running barefoot through the streets of Constantinople. Now she is Theou doron, 'the Gift of God', Empress of Byzantine Rome and the most powerful woman in the world. In Stella Duffy's compelling new novel, the beguiling and extraordinary Empress Theodora emerges from the shadow of history into brilliant light. Clever, courageous and ruthless when betrayed, Theodora rules alongside her husband, the Emperor Justinian - a true love match in a world of political marriages. While wars rage on the borders of the Empire, Theodora discovers that the greatest danger to her reign - and her life - lies much closer to home. From the catastrophic and terrifying riots that burn through the city; to vengeful enemies at the palace who will never accept 'Theodora-from-the-brothel'; to plagues and plots and murder, Theodora learns what it truly means to be Empress.Spanning over twenty dramatic years of Theodora's reign, The Purple Shroud is a vivid portrait of a charismatic, exceptional woman and a fascinating exploration of both the pleasures and the burdens of power.
By Frances Osborne
London, 1914. Two young women dream of breaking free from tradition and obligation; they know that suffragettes are on the march and that war looms, but at 35 Park Lane, Lady Masters, head of a dying industrial dynasty, insists that life is about service and duty.Below stairs, housemaid Grace Campbell is struggling. Her family in Carlisle believes she is a high earning secretary, but she has barely managed to get work in service - something she keeps even from her adored brother. Asked to send home more money than she earns, Grace is in trouble.As third housemaid she waits on Miss Beatrice, the youngest daughter of the house, who, fatigued with the social season, is increasingly drawn into Mrs Pankhurst's captivating underground world of militant suffragettes. Soon Bea is playing a dangerous game that will throw her in the path of a man her mother wouldn't let through the front door.Then war comes and it is not just their secrets - now on a collision course - that will change their lives for good.Brilliantly capturing a deeply fascinating period of British life in which the normal boundaries of behaviour were overturned and the social hierarchy could no longer be taken for granted, Park Lane is as gripping and intense as Frances Osborne's number one bestselling The Bolter.
The Paris Wife Deluxe Edition
By Paula McLain
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a shy twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness when she meets Ernest Hemingway and is captivated by his energy, intensity and burning ambition to write. After a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for France. But glamorous Jazz Age Paris, full of artists and writers, fuelled by alcohol and gossip, is no place for family life and fidelity. Ernest and Hadley's marriage begins to founder, and the birth of a beloved son serves only to drive them further apart. Then, at last, Ernest's ferocious literary endeavours begin to bring him recognition - not least from a woman intent on making him her own . . .This Deluxe Edition ebook features more than ninety additional pages of exclusive, author-approved annotations to enrich your reading experience. The annotations, which include new illustrations and photographs, are linked to throughout the text, so you can access them as you read or use them as supplemental material after finishing the novel. There is also a bonus Reading Group Guide, sure to inspire discussion at book clubs everywhere.
The Paris Wife
By Paula McLain
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a shy twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness when she meets Ernest Hemingway and is captivated by his energy, intensity and burning ambition to write. After a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for France. But glamorous Jazz Age Paris, full of artists and writers, fuelled by alcohol and gossip, is no place for family life and fidelity. Ernest and Hadley's marriage begins to founder, and the birth of a beloved son serves only to drive them further apart. Then, at last, Ernest's ferocious literary endeavours begin to bring him recognition - not least from a woman intent on making him her own . . .
By Elizabeth Taylor
An amusing, wry homage to Jane Eyre by one of the best novelists of the twentieth century.When newly orphaned Cassandra Dashwood arrives as governess to little Sophy, the scene seems set for the archetypal romance between young girl and austere widowed employer. Strange secrets abound in the ramshackle house. But conventions are subverted in this atmospheric novel: one of its worlds is suffused with classical scholarship and literary romance, but the other is chaotic, quarrelsome and even farcical. Cassandra is to discover that in real life, tragedy, comedy and acute embarrassment are never far apart.
By Polly Samson
In an English seaside town, lovers and children, young men and middle-aged women, weave in and out of each other's lives and stories.A mother is tormented by her daughter's tattoo; another only pretends to love her baby. A wife stalks her husband and his new lover; a broken egg through a letterbox tells a story that will not go away; the cat thinks he knows best. Threaded throughout are longings for love and poignant disappointments, surprising pleasures and temptations. Some will fall but some, like the small boy at the circus who sees his babysitter fly past on a trapeze wearing little more than a blue bra and spangles, will retain their feeling of awe.PERFECT LIVES, follows Polly Samson's rapturously received first collection, LYING IN BED. They are rueful, knowing, witty, poignant, bashful, bold. Her genius is in the nuance.
By Winifred Holtby
Caroline Denton-Smyth is an eccentric, dressed in trailing feathers and jangling beads, peering out from behind her lorgnette. Sitting alone in her West Kensington bedsitter, she dreams of the Christian Cinema Company - her vehicle for reform. For Caroline sees herself as a pioneer, one who must risk everything for the 'Cause of the Right'. Her Board of Directors is a motley crew including Basil St Denis, upper crust but impecunious; Joseph Isenbaum, aspiring to Society and Eton for his son; Eleanor de la Roux, Caroline's independent cousin from South Africa; Hugh Macafee, a curt Scottish film technician; young Father Mortimer, scarred from the First World War; and Clifton Johnson, a seedy American scenario writer on the make. Winifred Holtby affectionately observes the foibles of human nature in this sparkling satire, first published in 1931.