VANESSA and HER SISTER by Primya Parmar


VANESSA and HER SISTER (Ballantine Books) is the historical fiction account of Vanessa Stephen, her sister Virginia Stephen, their two brothers and others who form a circle of creative intellectuals known as the “Bloomsbury Group” by Priya Parmar. The small society forms in London, England in 1905. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby and Adrian have lost their parents and Thoby’s friends from Cambridge regularly come to their home for wine, whiskey, food and spirited conversations. It’s easy to lose track of all of Thoby’s guy friends, so pay special attention. Virginia, is the famous writer, Virginia Woolf, and her sister, Vanessa is the painter. They play hostesses to the group.

The novel is told from Vanessa’s point of view through her diary entries, entirely created by Parmar. The diary is composed of original of letters, postcards and telegrams; a technique which works well.

“It may be nothing.” She writes. “But nothing is nothing when it comes to Virginia.”

Vanessa is the calm, tolerant sister, Virginia, jealous, brilliant, known for bouts with mental illness. Eventually the novel comes to the breaking point when Vanessa and Virginia’s competition for the love of two men erupts. It’s not easy being Virginia’s sister, living in her creative shadow, but Vanessa Stephen Bell deserves and carries her own story. She’s an accomplished painter who later had paintings exhibited at The Tate.

I loved reading Parmar’s prose. Normally I’d find much of the structure and language too fussy and flowery, but not in this novel. While reading VANESSA and HER Sister, I “could hear” a lovely soundtrack; a beautiful early 19th century Romantic cello sonata played gently underneath. It was magical.

Thanks to Netgalley and Ballantine Books for a kindle copy of VANESSA and HER SISTER for an honest review. Go to to learn all things PRIYA. Feel free to check out to read more of my reviews and news about my novel, “Viewer Discretion Advised.”

Remember to support your local bookstores and libraries, my lovely chickadees! They’ll love you for it!

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