Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar



Vanessa and Her Sister

by Priya Parmar

published by Ballantine Books

December 2014

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.

My Review

I always love when I get books through Library Thing, and was excited to receive a copy of Vanessa And Her Sister by author Priya Parmar.  This is an epistolary novel told through the diary and letters of Vanessa Stephen Bell.  Bell tells us the story of herself and her sister, Virginia Woolf, and there famous friends, the Bloomsbury Group.  I loved the story, especially the artists and friend who came into the lives of the Stephen family.  When history is interwoven into a well written piece of fiction, it creates a peephole into what might have happened in the past.  Some names were very familiar, some not.  I was most surprised by the portrayal of Virginia Woolf.  I didn’t not know very much about the famous author, though I did know she had some mental problems.  Parmar writes of a very disturbed Woolf, one that had trouble maintaining sanity for long stretches and is overly attached not her sister.  I was surprised by this portrayal, but left wanting to know even more about Woolf.  This is a  very well written novel and I would definitely recommend reading it!


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.

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.

5 thoughts on “Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

  1. I am about to start reading this for review as well and am really looking forward to it.

    Your review has made me more excited.

    I love Virginia Woolf and want to know more about this take on her.

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