A Bite of the Apple is part-memoir, part history of Virago, and part thoughts on over forty years of feminist publishing. This is the story of how the authors and staff who, driven by passion, conviction and excitement, have made Virago Press one of the most important and influential English-language publishers in the world. Lennie Goodings has been with the iconic press founded by Carmen Callil almost since the start. First a publicist and then for over twenty years, publisher and editor, she has worked with extraordinary authors: Margaret Atwood, Marilynne Robinson, Sarah Waters, Linda Grant, Natasha Walter, Naomi Wolf and Maya Angelou among many others.
For the historical lead-in, Goodings maintains a careful, stately tone, like the voiceover in a prestigious BBC period drama about ladies: The House of Elliot, but for books. The story is one of artistry, ambition, activism and a fierce desire to marry the three ... A Bite of the Apple is about the women who did this work from the 1970s onwards, a time of huge activism around race, class and sex ... The book snaps into wit and colour when she reflects on her experiences as a dedicated and worldly editor. She is great at acute, observant character snapshots ... At the core of this book is a curiously Victorian message about the value of sincerity and of acting in good faith ... As a cultural history, A Bite of the Apple is clear. As a reminder of female artists’ ongoing fight for space and respect, it’s necessary. As a riff on writers and writing, it’s essential.
... Goodings would become the Publisher at Virago, one of the most influential and renowned presses of the 20th century. A Bite of the Apple tells the history of over 40 years of the publishing house, through its books, its characters, its finances, and its drama. It is part memoir, part history, and part an exploration of feminism, publishing, and the place of literature in affecting social progress ... Not only does [Goodings] recover Virago’s story, but she loops in the narratives of various authors and movements, building up a rich and textured historical fabric ... Bringing us right through to the work of Lola Olufemi, Joanna Bourke and the impact of #MeToo, A Bite of the Apple is an engagingly-written, thoughtful, and fast-paced book that captures the infectious enthusiasm of Virago. Sometimes eccentric, dedicated, with rare holidays and working lunches, this is an inspiring, entertaining and insightful read, full of the energy and fervour of hard-won wisdom.
Lennie Goodings, one of Virago’s earliest employees, draws on memories of her 42-year career at the press as well as the testimonies of fellow 'Viragos' and authors, from Angela Carter to Angelou, to capture the 'hot flame' that fuelled their fast-growing project ... A Bite of the Apple is essentially a romance story about the power of storytelling and the passion required to sustain a precarious literary dream for more than four decades ... This is an immersive, lovingly written memoir, whose story resonates beyond publishing. There are times when you would like Goodings to be less diplomatic and offer more juicy details of the catfights [...] But she is clearly the most even-tempered of the founding members, the one who hasn’t thrown in the towel and the one who has ensured Virago’s thumbprints are all over the culture.