So, my friend Jen kindly informed a few of us in our BookCrossing group that the Oxfam Bookshop in Moseley had a load of Viragoes in the window. Upon rushing up there yesterday (after doing an urgent bit of work, naturally), I discovered three piles of Virago Travellers, those slightly elusive travel books they republished, usually written by doughty women about, at the very least, donning a thorn-proof skirt and hoicking themselves up onto a donkey, but often dressing as a man, to travel through all sorts of exciting places in the 1850s-1950s sort of time period.

Readers, I was restrained. OK, I already had some of them. But I did want to leave some for others to discover and I couldn’t “rescue” them all. They were all donated from / on behalf of (look, I didn’t push to know: too sad!) the same person, and when I asked the nice chap who’d got them out of the window display for me, he and the manager brought out the novels that had come in at the same time – unfortunately I had all of those except one. Then it would have been RUDE not to have had a look around the shop proper, right? and the travel section yielded some lovelies. The haul in full …

Virago Travellers:

Flora Tristan – “Peregrinations of a Pariah” – French writer visits Peru in 1833 to claim her inheritance – she’s a pariah because of her divorce.

Gertrude Bell – “The Desert and the Sown” – The famous traveller’s journey through Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, first published 1907.

Alexandra David-Neel – “My Journey to Lhasa” – In 1923, she was the first European woman to visit the city of Lhasa. She was adept in Tibetan ascetic practices to keep warm.

Flora Tristan – “The London Journey of Flora Tristan” – More of the French traveller, exploring London in 1826-39.

Edith Durham – “High Albania” – Seven years of travel in the Balkans in – yes, a “waterproof Burberry skirt”.

Virago Modern Classic:

Edith Wharton – “The Mother’s Recompense” – Not one I’d previously come across: a woman who abandoned her husband and daughter 20 years ago is summoned back to New York by that daughter.


Mike Carter – “All Together Now” – The son of the man who organised the People’s March for Jobs in 1981 does the same walk just pre-Brexit vote to look at what has happened to the working classes in the meantime.

Patrick Barkham – “Islander: A Journey Around our Archipelago” – I can’t resist a book about islands and this looks at all Britain’s isles, from a great and perceptive nature writer.

Vikram Seth – “From Heaven Lake” – More Lhasa! The novelist hitchhikes through Sinkiang and Tibet.

Have you read any of these? I couldn’t leave any of them behind, could I, now???