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The Virago Book of Women Travellers

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Some of the extraordinary women whose writings are including in this collection are observers of the world in which they wander; their prose rich in description, remarkable in detail. Mary McCarthy conveys the vitality of Florence while Willa Cather's essay on Lavandou foreshadows her descriptions of the French countryside in later novels. Others are more active participan Some of the extraordinary women whose writings are including in this collection are observers of the world in which they wander; their prose rich in description, remarkable in detail. Mary McCarthy conveys the vitality of Florence while Willa Cather's essay on Lavandou foreshadows her descriptions of the French countryside in later novels. Others are more active participants in the culture they are visiting, such as Leila Philip, as she harvests rice with chiding Japanese women, or Emily Carr, as she wins the respect and trust of the female chieftain of an Indian village in Northern Canada. Whether it is curiosity about the world, a thirst for adventure or escape from personal tragedy, all of these women are united in that they approached their journeys with wit, intelligence, compassion and empathy for the lives of those they encountered along the way. Features writing from Gertrude Bell, Edith Wharton, Isabella Bird, Kate O'Brien, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and many others.


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Some of the extraordinary women whose writings are including in this collection are observers of the world in which they wander; their prose rich in description, remarkable in detail. Mary McCarthy conveys the vitality of Florence while Willa Cather's essay on Lavandou foreshadows her descriptions of the French countryside in later novels. Others are more active participan Some of the extraordinary women whose writings are including in this collection are observers of the world in which they wander; their prose rich in description, remarkable in detail. Mary McCarthy conveys the vitality of Florence while Willa Cather's essay on Lavandou foreshadows her descriptions of the French countryside in later novels. Others are more active participants in the culture they are visiting, such as Leila Philip, as she harvests rice with chiding Japanese women, or Emily Carr, as she wins the respect and trust of the female chieftain of an Indian village in Northern Canada. Whether it is curiosity about the world, a thirst for adventure or escape from personal tragedy, all of these women are united in that they approached their journeys with wit, intelligence, compassion and empathy for the lives of those they encountered along the way. Features writing from Gertrude Bell, Edith Wharton, Isabella Bird, Kate O'Brien, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and many others.

55 review for The Virago Book of Women Travellers

  1. 4 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    A very competent chronology of women’s travel writing is presented by Virago. Typically of books such as these some excepts hold the attention better than others as there is something for everyone or anyone interested in the diverse but seemingly niche travel writings of women through the ages. First published in 1994 and edited by Mary Morris I was a little slow to take in comments she made in her Introduction. On rereading, after finishing the last except proper, she at one point writes “Women A very competent chronology of women’s travel writing is presented by Virago. Typically of books such as these some excepts hold the attention better than others as there is something for everyone or anyone interested in the diverse but seemingly niche travel writings of women through the ages. First published in 1994 and edited by Mary Morris I was a little slow to take in comments she made in her Introduction. On rereading, after finishing the last except proper, she at one point writes “Women, I feel, move through the world differently than men. The constraint’s and perils, the perceptions and complex emotions women journey with are different than men. The fear of rape for example….” “….or just crossing the street at night, most dramatically effects the way they move around the world.” Further examples were given and with that the editor has a point. The more I thought about what I had read the more I realised that many of the excerpts did indeed include the writer letting the reader know their fears in certain situations. My lack of thoughtfulness on this subject on my read through of this compendium does me no favours. The Introduction also made comment that this was a collection that looked to show past and recent examples of feminist literature. I had to admit that as a male reader I also felt bereft of understanding this when reading through but gained an understanding when reading the Intro after. I did find myself more attracted to the later day writers than the early years, I have to admit, but I am unable to give a reason why. Maybe there was less writing on their surrounds and more sophisticated commentary on their happenings? I don’t know and I feel ham-fisted trying to explain it. An example is that is an excerpt from Annie Dillard’s book A stone to Talk that blew me away with the brilliance of the prose and observation. A few earlier writers just plodded along but that is probably unfair on my part. Just maybe I should have taken more notice of that introduction. Be that as it may, as inarticulate as my musings are, this is a good book for those who may have an interest in women’s travel writing over the ages. Recommended to those with that interest.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    A trove for further reading and social history of (largely) colonial travel by women. The quality is uneven, but I was immediately enchanted by the extract from Andrea Lee's Russian Journal . I would have said it was all White European women travellers, but Lee is African American. I wonder to what extent travel-for-pleasure (or 'adventure') itself is a specifically colonial activity, linked to our sense of entitlement to consume, appropriate, place and police the Other. Lee's memoir stands i A trove for further reading and social history of (largely) colonial travel by women. The quality is uneven, but I was immediately enchanted by the extract from Andrea Lee's Russian Journal . I would have said it was all White European women travellers, but Lee is African American. I wonder to what extent travel-for-pleasure (or 'adventure') itself is a specifically colonial activity, linked to our sense of entitlement to consume, appropriate, place and police the Other. Lee's memoir stands in contrast to the sense of this, elsewhere much in evidence.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I am an enormous fan of Virago, as anyone who knows even a little of my reading habits can probably discern. To my delight, I spotted The Virago Book of Women Travellers online at a ridiculously low price, and decided to treat myself (another of my favourite things in life is travelling, after all!). I had originally intended to read it over the Christmas holidays, but true to form at such busy times, I did not really get a chance to do so. I thus picked it up in February, just before a wonderfu I am an enormous fan of Virago, as anyone who knows even a little of my reading habits can probably discern. To my delight, I spotted The Virago Book of Women Travellers online at a ridiculously low price, and decided to treat myself (another of my favourite things in life is travelling, after all!). I had originally intended to read it over the Christmas holidays, but true to form at such busy times, I did not really get a chance to do so. I thus picked it up in February, just before a wonderful trip to The Netherlands. The selection of extracts here is extensive and varied, and encompasses an incredible scope of geographical locations. Societally and historically it is most interesting, and some extracts - Beryl Markham's about elephant hunting, for instance - are very of their time (thankfully so, in this case!). Some of my favourite authors were collected here - Vita Sackville-West, and Rebecca West, as well as Rose Macaulay. As ever with such collections, there were several entries which I did not quite enjoy as much as the rest, but each was undoubtedly fascinating in its own way. I very much enjoyed the 'can do' attitude which every single one of the writers had, regardless of circumstance or destination, and very much liked the way in which this singular thread bound all of them together. The chronological ordering made for a splendid reading experience. The Virago Book of Women Travellers is a marvellous volume in which to dip here and there, to reconnect with old favourites, and to discover new writers to find, and new women to admire. I adore the idea of thematic travelogues, and there is something really rather special and inspiring about this one. It has brought some marvellous women, both in terms of personality and writing ablity, to my attention, and I can only conclude this review by saying that it is a joy for any women traveller to read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. The idea is interesting--four hundred years of women writing about their adventures. What could go wrong? What went wrong is that a lot of these stories are just plain boring. Sometimes it's because the essays are very old, and written in an archaic style that's hard to follow. A lot of the early ones suffer in comparison to modern travel writing, which is not necessarily better, but which tends to be funnier and snappier than older works. Anoth I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. The idea is interesting--four hundred years of women writing about their adventures. What could go wrong? What went wrong is that a lot of these stories are just plain boring. Sometimes it's because the essays are very old, and written in an archaic style that's hard to follow. A lot of the early ones suffer in comparison to modern travel writing, which is not necessarily better, but which tends to be funnier and snappier than older works. Another problem with these stories is that a lot of them are excerpted from longer works, so they have no real beginning, end, or story arc. This makes them a little hard to get into. Also, I don't like to say it, but the fact is that some of these narrators are a little tiresome. Some really are admirable, adventurous women, but some are over-zealous missionaries, irritating idle rich women, or unstable people on weird trips that are more like cries for help than actual vacations. As a writer, I found it interesting to see how travel writing has evolved over the centuries. As a reader, though, I found myself frequently checking to see how much of the book I had left--and wishing it were less.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan Beecher

    I really enjoyed this selection of travel writings by a bunch of different women from all different time periods.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    A variety of authors made this a fascinating, inspiring and at times a frustrating read. In hindsight I would not have read this as a stand alone book but instead when I was in the mood for a short read, like short stories. Some of the snapshots made me want to but the actual books (now added to my evergrowing list). Others I found tedious and some annoying. However is was wonderful to see so many women travellers through history and going thorough some places I would have assumed to be quite ho A variety of authors made this a fascinating, inspiring and at times a frustrating read. In hindsight I would not have read this as a stand alone book but instead when I was in the mood for a short read, like short stories. Some of the snapshots made me want to but the actual books (now added to my evergrowing list). Others I found tedious and some annoying. However is was wonderful to see so many women travellers through history and going thorough some places I would have assumed to be quite hostile. A wonderful window into a world not too long ago.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ria

    I bought this book a few hours ago and have already read a number of the writings in this collection. In Le Lavandou, September 10, 1902 from Willa Cather in Europe, my own feelings about travel could not be more beautifully expressed: "... One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world's end somewhere....". In the excerpt from Wall-to-Wall, Mary Morris evokes the beauty and tormented past of Leningrad I bought this book a few hours ago and have already read a number of the writings in this collection. In Le Lavandou, September 10, 1902 from Willa Cather in Europe, my own feelings about travel could not be more beautifully expressed: "... One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world's end somewhere....". In the excerpt from Wall-to-Wall, Mary Morris evokes the beauty and tormented past of Leningrad and her description of the White Nights has me longing for my own experience of the Midnight Sun. I love how she personalizes her experience of the city - realizing that she is having a child, she writes of "the small body contained within my own" and that "We lay there together for the first time, one inside the other, inside the bed, inside the alcove, the room, like those Russian dolls I carried with me as gifts..". This is a book to return to again and again.

  8. 5 out of 5

    KtotheC

    To be honest I didn't read every piece - some were plain old boring, some didn't engage as stand alone pieces and some had a horrible whiff of colonialism and noble savage bullshit...I didn't like the format and layout of the book at all. There were a few pieces I really enjoyed though. It got to the point where I felt like I was doing homework and so I skipped the boring ones and read the ones that struck me. Life's too short for reading that isn't pleasurable. To be honest I didn't read every piece - some were plain old boring, some didn't engage as stand alone pieces and some had a horrible whiff of colonialism and noble savage bullshit...I didn't like the format and layout of the book at all. There were a few pieces I really enjoyed though. It got to the point where I felt like I was doing homework and so I skipped the boring ones and read the ones that struck me. Life's too short for reading that isn't pleasurable.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Suus

    Read parts of it, its not really the kind of book you read from cover to cover. I enjoyed reading experiences from women throughout the times (it's done chronologically) and I'm always a sucker for travel writing. May have been more impactful if the editor had chosen fewer stories but with more context - now its just a (seemingly) endless compilation of stories. Read parts of it, its not really the kind of book you read from cover to cover. I enjoyed reading experiences from women throughout the times (it's done chronologically) and I'm always a sucker for travel writing. May have been more impactful if the editor had chosen fewer stories but with more context - now its just a (seemingly) endless compilation of stories.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Annette Boehm

    Didn't finish. Made it halfway through, but as enjoyable some of the excerpts are, others are rather dry. Didn't finish. Made it halfway through, but as enjoyable some of the excerpts are, others are rather dry.

  11. 5 out of 5

    It's Mini

    really appreciative of the different dimensions each writer has brought to the female travel experience

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kate Hendy

    I am reading this in between other full length novels so it will be a book in progress.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marguerite Kaye

    This book was a present I was delighted to receive. It's a beautiful book, with lovely illustrations, an excellent intro and editorial line, and it's a perfect mixture of mini-profiles for dipping in and out of. Obviously, the link is the fact that we're reading abut women travellers, and all of them are in their way travellers outwith the conventions of their time. They are intrepid - they need to be - and they are incredibly, often painstakingly observant in a way that our generation of digita This book was a present I was delighted to receive. It's a beautiful book, with lovely illustrations, an excellent intro and editorial line, and it's a perfect mixture of mini-profiles for dipping in and out of. Obviously, the link is the fact that we're reading abut women travellers, and all of them are in their way travellers outwith the conventions of their time. They are intrepid - they need to be - and they are incredibly, often painstakingly observant in a way that our generation of digitally-armed travellers don't have to be. They create the landscape, country, city, desert, sea, in words that make you feel you're there. They give you their views on the sights they see, often leaden with prejudices, personal and of their time, which can sometimes be funny, sometimes be very difficult to take. The writing comes from letters, journals and diaries, and can be incredibly candid, depending on the intended audience - which is rarely public. And they write form the heart. I'm writing a series at the moment which requires three of my heroines to be equally intrepid, so this has the added bonus of being very readable research. A great book

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Sparks

    This is a lovely book of travel essays by women from the 1700s to about the 1970s. Many of the women were traveling alone during times when traveling wasn't very easy and certainly wasn't something many women did o their own, and they were traveling to places all over the world. The majority of the essays are about Africa, Asia and the Middle East. There were a few about traveling to colonial America and one about traveling to the wilds of Ohio written by Anthony Trollope's mother that was hilar This is a lovely book of travel essays by women from the 1700s to about the 1970s. Many of the women were traveling alone during times when traveling wasn't very easy and certainly wasn't something many women did o their own, and they were traveling to places all over the world. The majority of the essays are about Africa, Asia and the Middle East. There were a few about traveling to colonial America and one about traveling to the wilds of Ohio written by Anthony Trollope's mother that was hilarious. Many of the women faced sexism along the way and had to fight to go certain places. The defied expectations. I ended up with a long list of books to read from these ladies. And have the itch to travel.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Romily

    I've been dipping in and out of this book and have found each of the selections fascinating. The intrepidity of the women - especially the earliest pioneers in foreign travel - is inspiring. Many seem without fear and have to encounter extreme discomfort and frequently danger. They often have a freshness of observation, missing from the usual travel accounts. One of my favourites is Isabella Bird (1831-1904), who cared for family members until she was 40, and from then on never stopped travellin I've been dipping in and out of this book and have found each of the selections fascinating. The intrepidity of the women - especially the earliest pioneers in foreign travel - is inspiring. Many seem without fear and have to encounter extreme discomfort and frequently danger. They often have a freshness of observation, missing from the usual travel accounts. One of my favourites is Isabella Bird (1831-1904), who cared for family members until she was 40, and from then on never stopped travelling - her account of climbing in the Rocky Mountains is full of exuberance. A recommended and humbling read for those of us who complain about stuffy airport lounges and overcrowded trains.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Gorgeous book--featuring the lives of intrepid women who decided to see things for themselves, starting with the Lady Montagu in the 1700s. You'll find a lot of your favorite women here--Rebecca West, Beryl Markham, M.F.K. Fisher, Annie Dillard, and Isabella Bird. Beautifully illustrated. The only quarrel--tiny type that makes you long for 12 point Times Roman. But well worth the effort! Gorgeous book--featuring the lives of intrepid women who decided to see things for themselves, starting with the Lady Montagu in the 1700s. You'll find a lot of your favorite women here--Rebecca West, Beryl Markham, M.F.K. Fisher, Annie Dillard, and Isabella Bird. Beautifully illustrated. The only quarrel--tiny type that makes you long for 12 point Times Roman. But well worth the effort!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Clara

    Okay the English language may be old fashioned but it makes it even more authentic, I may not always understand what is going on.in those travels but it affirms that those are be exotic and belong to a different time and best bit, it's short and sweet so perfect to read as long or as short as you like. Recommending! Okay the English language may be old fashioned but it makes it even more authentic, I may not always understand what is going on.in those travels but it affirms that those are be exotic and belong to a different time and best bit, it's short and sweet so perfect to read as long or as short as you like. Recommending!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Therese

    Decided to give this book a rest as I'm just not as into it as I was when I first started reading it. Might come back to it eventually, but for now, I want to move on. Decided to give this book a rest as I'm just not as into it as I was when I first started reading it. Might come back to it eventually, but for now, I want to move on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This is a great book to dip into, covering a wide variety of places, authors, and experiences.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    An incrediblely diverse selection of travellers that is a great primer in travel and women. Highly recommend.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wanda Brenni

    Little vingnettes, written by women on the road, from the 1700's to present day that speak to a tenacity of will that is truely inspiring. Little vingnettes, written by women on the road, from the 1700's to present day that speak to a tenacity of will that is truely inspiring.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    GREAT book of TRUE, short stories about women traveling, (often alone) around the world. I am reading it as a bedtime book and enjoying it immensely.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Ideal for reading in the bath! Of the 52 or so excerpts I thought 50 were excellent.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sass

    very interesting

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Hay

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jodie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ola Fagbohun

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anna Gibson

  31. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  32. 4 out of 5

    Andre Torrejón)

  33. 5 out of 5

    Lost Words

  34. 4 out of 5

    hosseini

  35. 5 out of 5

    hadi

  36. 4 out of 5

    Mari!

  37. 5 out of 5

    P_mci

  38. 5 out of 5

    Bella Baer

  39. 5 out of 5

    Carli

  40. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  41. 5 out of 5

    My Tam

  42. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  43. 5 out of 5

    Matilda

  44. 4 out of 5

    Renee

  45. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Davies

  46. 4 out of 5

    Alex321abc

  47. 4 out of 5

    Trucie

  48. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  49. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  50. 4 out of 5

    Sabine S

  51. 4 out of 5

    Willene Van der Merwe

  52. 5 out of 5

    Prog1955

  53. 5 out of 5

    Sherian

  54. 4 out of 5

    Jane Tara

  55. 4 out of 5

    Dioni (Bookie Mee)

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