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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.
Read by a Full Cast:
Virginia read by Clare Corbett
Vanessa read by Emilia Fox
Lytton Strachey read by Julian Rhind-Tutt
Leonard Woolf read by Daniel Pirrie
Roger Fry read by Anthony Calf
Advance praise for "Vanessa and Her Sister"
Priya Parmar is on a high-wire act all her own in this radiantly original novel about the Bloomsbury Set. Irrepressible, with charm and brio to spare, "Vanessa and Her Sister "boldly invites us to that moment in history when famous minds sparked and collided. Prepare to be dazzled. Paula McLain, author of "The Paris Wife"
With sparkling wit and insight, Priya Parmar sets us down into the legendary Bloomsbury household of the Stephen siblings, where sisters Vanessa and Virginia vie for love and primacy amidst a collection of eccentric guests. "Vanessa and Her Sister "kidnapped me for a couple of days. I couldn t put it down. Nancy Horan, author of "Under the Wide and Starry Sky "
I loved this brilliant depiction of the true price of genius. Parmar s novel shines a bright light into the empty spaces between the lines of history. Helen Simonson, author of "Major Pettigrew s Last Stand"
This is the novel I didn t know I was waiting for, and it is, quite simply, astonishing: not just because of Priya Parmar s preternatural skill at evoking the moment when the lid was coming off the Victorians, but because of how she has caught the two sisters at the center of that swirl. It is beautiful, wise, and as deft as a stroke upon the canvas. Sarah Blake, author of "The Postmistress""
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-03-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Before becoming the celebrated writer Virginia Woolf, young Virginia Stephens lived with her sister, Vanessa, and her brothers in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London, where they surrounded themselves with other artists and intellectuals. Told in diary entries and letters, this novel captures that period, characterized by emotional upheavals and family crises as well as intellectual and artistic conversations. Emilia Fox is perfect in the role of Vanessa, whose point of view dominates the story. Fox captures Vanessa’s feelings of responsibility and exasperation toward her sister, her mixed feelings about her suitor Clive Bell, and her earnest desire to be a serious artist. Julian Rhind-Tutt is likewise excellent as family friend Lytton Strachey: flamboyantly gay, full of lively gossip, prone to self-deprecating humor, and passionately longing for a man he cannot have. Daniel Pirre and Anthony Calf both offer serviceable, straightforward narrations in their respective roles as Leonard Woolf and Roger Fry. The one misstep is Clare Corbett, who is cast as Virginia, the baby of the family and described as brilliant and witty, but also childish, immature, wild, reckless, selfish, prone to fits of hysteria, and actual madness. In narrating Virginia’s chapters, Corbett’s voice is deeper than the voice of other female characters, with a crackly quality and an overly posh accent, all of which make her sound like a middle-aged woman, not the childish 20-something girl she is supposed to be. The effect is jarring. However, only a handful of chapters are told from Virginia’s point of view, so it does not detract too much from the rest of the narration, which is excellent. A Ballantine hardcover. (Dec.)