“Vanessa and Her Sister” by Priya Parmar – A Book Review



"Vanessa and Her Sister" depicts the very complex relationship between Vanessa and Virginia Stephens (later Virginia Woolf). Each is accomplished in her own right, but the sisters are forever locked in constant competition with one another. When Vanessa finds love, it throws off the already unsteady balance between, setting off chains of events that will impact their lives and affect those around them. In my opinion, Priya Parmar paints Vanessa slightly more sympathetically than her sister, but each have their faults. 

Though the novel mostly focuses on Vanessa and Virgina, the cast of characters include notables from the "Bloomsbury" group, including EM Foreseter, and John Maynard Keynes, which was fun. I can't imagine how fascinating it would have been to be a fly on the wall for one of their dinner parties or late night conversation sessions. 

While I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book, what really captivated my attention was the sister's relationship. The author does an excellent job (perhaps a sister herself?), of capturing what exactly it is that draws and keeps sisters together despite their differences. The way Vanessa and Virginia treat each other is nuanced and realistic, which allows the reader to disappear into the story. 

Overall, four out of five stars because I felt there were some issues with pacing and some sections that were a little on the slow side. I did enjoy the way that postcards and telegrams and interspersed between the chapters. I would also have provided a little bit more detail when it comes to the cast of characters for those that are not super familiar with the famous faces of this period. 

Side note: There is also something rather satisfying about the fact that Virginia is only indirectly named in the title. Score one for Vanessa?

Available for preorder from Amazon.com and on shelves December 30th, 2014. 
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher for the purpose of review.

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