Release Date: December 30, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
Book Description: For fans of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank comes a captivating novel that offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of Vanessa Bell, her sister Virginia Woolf, and the controversial and popular circle of intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group.
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.
Wanda's Thoughts: Vanessa and Her Sister brings to life the Stephen family. London – 1905 – The four Stephen siblings, Thoby, Adrian, Vanessa, and Virginia are now sharing a home in the Bloomsbury neighborhood. Their entourage of friends, the Bloomsbury group, mostly Cambridge graduates, connect the family and the story. The main focus of the story is built on the two talented sisters, Vanessa, the artist, and Virginia, the writer. The story is told through journal entries, correspondences, telegrams, and postcards.
Vanessa is a very talented artist, but has yet to sell a painting. She is able to lose herself in her painting, and feels that painting does not qualify as work. She never felt as beautiful as her sister, Virginia, who has a definite vibrancy about her. Virginia has a way of captivating men, who fall in love with her beauty. It is evident early on that Virginia has some mental issues that she has to deal with throughout her life. She becomes terrified that Vanessa will marry Clive Bell, and believes the family will unravel if one of them gets married. Vanessa moves forward with her life when she finally marries Clive and soon gives birth to a son, Julian. Virginia, with all her insecurities, complains that Vanessa isn’t paying enough attention to her and begins to feel envious and irritated. And the story unfolds as the inevitable happens - an act of betrayal.
It was obvious early on that this book and I were not meant to be – I just couldn’t get into it. I kept trudging through and finally became somewhat engaged in the storyline. It was hard to keep track of all the friends, although it was somewhat helpful to have many of them listed in the beginning of the book. The story just didn’t flow for me – it felt disjointed throughout. Unfortunately, I just never became interested in this “Bloomsbury group.” My rating is 3 stars – it certainly was not my cup of tea.
I received this book as a Goodreads winner.
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.