A Bite of the Apple: A Life with Books, Writers and Virago by Lennie Goodings - review by D J Taylor

D J Taylor

Fiction, Feminism & Fake Vicars

A Bite of the Apple: A Life with Books, Writers and Virago


Oxford University Press 302pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The old-style publisher’s memoir, which reached its high-water mark between about 1920 and 1950, was a relatively staid affair. The publisher who wrote it – say, Evelyn Waugh’s father, Arthur, author of One Man’s Road (1931), or Grant Richards, who penned Author Hunting (1934) – was usually the sole proprietor of a business he had founded himself, or at the very least the distinguished impresario of a list that reflected his own personal tastes. The signature mark of this apologia pro vita sua was, naturally, praise: praise for the authors whose careers he had boosted and praise for the associates who had helped him on his way, with perhaps a dire warning or two about the likelihood of the modern publishing scene very soon going to hell in a handcart.

How odd, then, that Lennie Goodings, longtime chatelaine of Virago, the greatest feminist outfit in the history of British publishing, should have written a book that, once you subtract the feminism, reads as if it could have been put together in the library of the Savile Club about three-quarters

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