Assembled as a series of letters, diary entries, and telegrams, Priya Parmar’s VANESSA AND HER SISTER is a literary, witty, visceral, and captivating look at Virginia Woolf and her siblings. Whether pausing to savor the language or quickly devouring the story, you will be completely satisfied and eager for more.
If you don’t know anything about Virginia Woolf’s family then allow this book to be your introduction to the fascinating Stephen siblings. Newly parentless, the young adults take a house in the bohemian Bloomsbury neighborhood and struggle to establish themselves in work and art. Doted on by Vanessa, Virginia is the pulsing, irregular heartbeat of their home, but as their circles expand and Vanessa begins to find love and identity outside of Virginia, rivalries and betrayals puncture their insulated world, forever changing their relationship.
Parmar’s epistolary novel presents us with a telling of such intimacy and immediacy it is as if the characters are whispering in our ears, conspiring with us. Not a word is wasted.
Vanessa “is a cautious creature. Given to bone-shattering honesty. Believe all her words…she does nothing by accident. Nor is she careless, like her sister. Virginia would set the house on fire just to watch everyone come running out in pyjamas.”
I did not want this book to end, and when it did I went back to the beginning and started rereading it.
I keep VANESSA AND HER SISTER close at hand, revisiting the story often. No matter how I approach it, I forget myself, getting lost in the world outside time and space Parmar has created. The book is an experience. The readers are observers watching the characters from parlor doorways. We hear their banter. We smell their tobacco. We feel their pains. We wish to repair them. To rewrite them.
Lovers of literary fiction, strong and complicated female characters, and prewar London will adore VANESSA AND HER SISTER.
A spellbinding tale of the inseparable bond between Virginia Woolf and her sister, the gifted painter Vanessa Bell, and the real-life betrayal that threatened to destroy their family. Parmar’s enthralling debut exquisitely captures the aura of prewar London and the extraordinary lives of these remarkable artists.