Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar (Book Review)

Disclosure- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.

Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Le
onard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.

But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa’s constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else.

The work of exciting young newcomer Priya Parmar, Vanessa and Her Sister exquisitely captures the champagne-heady days of prewar London and the extraordinary lives of sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.

About the book-

I will admit that while I believe myself to be fairly well read, Virginia Woolf is not an author I have really read much from. However, I find her story interesting and the people  her fascinating and I love reading novels that are inspired from true life people and situations. Vanessa and Her Sister is written to appear as a (fictionalized) journal written by artistic Vanessa, sister of Virginia. I like the idea of the writing style, but for some reason it just wasn't holding my attention the way would like it to and it took me a while to get through the book. I found the dynamic between the sisters and the dependence on one another, especially Virginia's dependence on Virginia, interesting to read. The exploration of mental illness in Virginia was something I won't soon forget. The most interesting thing to me is reading what life was likely like for an extraordinary group of talented artists at the turn of the century in a time where they were yet to be famous but trying to find their own footing. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Virginia Woolf or lovers of history. 

Vanessa and Her Sister is available at and other retailers nationwide.

About the author-

Priya Parmar is a former freelance editor. She educated at Oxford College and The University of Edinburgh. Her debut novel was Exit the Actress.

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