Friday, 15 April 2016

Vanessa And Her Sister by Priya Parmar

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights (

What we thought: I totally loved this book! This is a beautifully evocative historical novel, built around the relationship between Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia Woolf

A new author for me, and a lightness in the tone and style and language that oozes charm and wit, and through a cleverly constructed journey through scenes, letters and diary excerpts introduces us to a lifestyle long since lost.

The novel is set in London in 1905, a period of ageless grace and an early taste of liberation for strong, female characters. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby and Adrian Stephens take a house in the heart of the avant-garde area of Bloomsbury, where they bring together a glittering circle of friends who will come to be known as the legendary Bloomsbury Group. And at the centre are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter and Virginia, the writer.

The novels traces the lives of each of the artistic group, each who will go on to greatness in their own rights, but centres mostly on the lives of Vanessa and Virginia. Virginia: delicate and damaged. Vanessa: talented and level-headed, shadowed by the need to cherish and protect her sister.

However, when Vanessa falls in love and Virginia’s position of the centre of her sister’s world appears to be threatened she rapidly unravels in a decline towards dangerous levels of depression that not even her doting sister can handle.

There’s so much to love about this novel. The dialogue is pitch perfect, the research brilliantly handled, and the pace and style a refreshing change. But if I had to name one thing that really stood out to me, it would be the ease in which this talented author took you back in time and transported the reader right back into that leafy square in Bloomsbury, London.

I was sad to come to the end and will certainly search out more books from Ms Parmar.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Jodi Picoult, Amanda Hogkinson, Sarah Waters.

Avoid if you don’t like: Human frailty, sibling rivalry and high society London.

Ideal accompaniments: Cream and jam scones, Earl Grey tea and ice cold Champagne.

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Available from Amazon

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