Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar | Review

Vanessa and Her Sister Book Cover
Vanessa and Her Sister Historical Fiction Ballantine Books Hardcover 368 pages Amazon

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. Leonard 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.


I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review

Vanessa and Her Sister is a beautiful fictional novel about Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell. Told in the form of epistolary through Vanessa’s diary. The story also features the Stephens’ siblings and friends. Based on real-life people and events, Vanessa and Her Sister show the bond of families and society life pre-WWI.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. I have read a couple works by Virginia Woolf but was unaware of her talented family and background. This novel offered a realistic glimpse of what her life might have been like. The characters were smart and witty and I felt like I would have gotten along with them in real life.

I love when authors choose alternative literary forms to write in. Reading this novel from the perspective of Vanessa Bell’s diary entries provided an interesting read. There were many detailed accounts, but there were also time gaps which made this more realistic.

I am looking forward to what Parmar comes up with next!

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