Saturday, 20 December 2014

Review: Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel by Priya Parmar

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.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: December 30th 2014 by Ballantine Books
Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is December 30th 2014.

I hesitate to pen my thoughts on this story.  I always wonder if I am being harsh or if I missed something when I am not particularly fond of a book that seems to be getting glowing reviews.  I just simply did not feel the love for this story.

The reason for my lack of enthusiasm is simply put the subject matter/characters of the book.  I did not find them interesting nor their lives and I found myself forcing my way through the story.  Vanessa was simply boring to me as was her family and friends.  They were not enough to sustain the book. 

It is a shame because I did like the concept of the story.  The way Parmar captured her story through diary entries, letters & travel tickets was very interesting.  I found this allowed you to read as little or as much as you wanted to in one shot without losing any impact.  I also found her writing enjoyable and easy to follow.

In summary I felt this was a well written story and I believe Parmar has a lot of promise however the characters in this book were too dull for me to care about them.  The good news is I seem to be in the minority on this one. I would not let this dissuade me from reading other works of Parmar.
About the Author

Educated at Mount Holyoke College, the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh, Priya Parmar is the author of one previous novel, Exit the Actress.

Her new novel, VANESSA AND HER SISTER will be published by Ballantine/Random House on 12/30/14.

She divides her time between Hawaii and London.

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