Vanessa and Her Sister

Publisher: Anchor Canada
It can break your heart to have a sister like Virginia Woolf.
     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 eventually, 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.

PRAISE FOR

A New York Times Notable 100 Book of the Year
Named one of The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review Editors’ Choice
Named one of Vanity Fair’s Books You Need to Read this Month (January)


"[Vanessa and Her Sister] deals skillfully with . . . the fluctuating loves and betrayals, the art, Virginia’s terrifying bouts of insanity, and her almost equally terrifying bouts of whimsical brilliance and charm. . . . [Parmar] creates a convincing voice."
Financial Times

"Parmar's Vanessa and Her Sister injects new sizzle into the saga [of the Bloomsbury Group]. With a multi-voice, almost operatic treatment, Parmar’s second novel illuminates emotional truths about the already famous lives of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf."
Toronto Star

"A personal drama of great force. . . . Parmar's lively version of this well-known story quickly won me over.”
National Post

"Deftly told. . . . [Vanessa and Her Sister] captures the youthful, bohemian mood of the time."
The Globe and Mail

"This novel gives [the Bloomsbury Group] as sharp an outline as one of Vanessa's paintings."
Winnipeg Free Press

“It’s not often that you wish a book wouldn’t end, but [Vanessa and Her Sister] is so deliciously gossipy (while occasionally wonderfully prurient), and almost too beautifully written, to stop at 339 pages. The neediness, the control, the mind games, and ultimately the betrayal at the heart of this often poisonous sibling rivalry, is never less than fascinating.” 
The Independent (UK)

Vanessa and Her Sister is an elegant, entertaining novel that brings new life to the Bloomsbury Group’s intrigues.” 
Dallas Morning News

“[Vanessa and Her Sister] draws a richly compelling and extraordinarily sympathetic portrait of a woman struggling to extricate herself from her sister’s loving but desperate clutches, and live, for want of a better phrase, a life of her own. . . . [Parmar] offers a fresh perspective on a story that’s already become legend.” ―The Independent (UK)

“[An] impressive novel. . . . with sharp insight and careful attention to detail. . . . Vanessa and Her Sister is a remarkable achievement. . . . [that is] so fresh and compelling.” ―The Guardian (UK)
 
“Told in richly imagined diary entries from Bell’s perspective, as well as invented letters and telegrams. . . . Parmar’s extensive research into the Bloomsbury group’s correspondence and diaries lends a realistic gloss to her fictionalized account of Bell’s turbulent life during these years.” ―Huffington Post
 
“Parmar convincingly portrays the sisters’ relationship, which is intensely close yet marred by the destructive effects of Virginia’s mental illness.” ―The New York Times
 
“‘A moving portrait of a brilliant family,’ says Staci Rice of Bluebird Books in Hutchinson, Kan.” ―USA Today
 
“[W]ritten with imaginative panache. . . . ***½ stars out of four. Gossipy, entertaining . . . makes for some tasty, frothy Bloomsbury pie.” ―USA Today
 
“Fascinating.” ―Jacquelin Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

“Parmar’s narrative is riveting and successfully takes on the task of turning larger-than-life figures into real people. . . . [She] weaves their stories together so effortlessly that nothing seems out of place.” 
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“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, shaping the terrain of art and letters. But it’s the two sisters who are most bewitching here—rocking on the brink of unforgivable transgression, changing each other in ways far-reaching and profound. 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 amid 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 Loving Frank
 
“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 and the heated talk about art, life, and sex swirled through Bloomsbury, but because of how she has caught the two sisters at the center of that swirl—the women who would become Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. Vanessa and Her Sister is beautiful and wise, and as deft as a stroke upon the canvas.”
—Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress




From the Hardcover edition.