Ailah Ahmed of Virago Press Recommends...

I love recommending brilliant writers. It’s one of the best bits of my job as publishing director of Virago Press in London. When a book has been acquired and edited, its cover finalized and the publication plans in place, I am left to talk freely about the amazing novel I know everyone needs to read. With this in mind, I want to recommend three women writers who I think you should study. The work of these three writers speaks to me on a daily basis. Sadly I didn’t publish any of them, with the exception of reissuing stories by Muriel Spark, but I am evangelical about their writing. Read Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat, described as a “metaphysical shocker”; and Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac, the antidote to any tedious or over-excitable romantic entanglement; and The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector, which will set your brain on fire. When I sign up new writers, their work often leads back to these three books—often in surprising and subtle ways. It’s not something I plan; it just turns out to be that way. Spark, Brookner, and Lispector seem to follow me around (or perhaps it’s the other way). Their echoes can be heard in some of the titles I choose to publish every year, and that is like being in a secret and very special conversation. Read these women writers now if you haven’t done so—they have a lot to teach you!  

Ailah Ahmed, publishing director, Virago Press