Vanessa and Her Sister

Author(s): Priya Parmar

Historical Fiction

A New York Times Notable Book - An Entertainment Weekly "Must List" Pick - "Prepare to be dazzled."--Paula McLain - "Quite simply astonishing."--Sarah Blake

What if Virginia Woolf's sister had kept a diary? For fans of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank comes a spellbinding new story of the inseparable bond between Virginia and her sister, the gifted painter Vanessa Bell, and the real-life betrayal that threatened to destroy their family. Hailed by The New York Times Book Review as "an uncanny success" and based on meticulous research, this stunning novel illuminates a little-known episode in the celebrated sisters' glittering bohemian youth among the legendary Bloomsbury Group.

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.

Praise for Vanessa and Her Sister

"Fiction and history merge seamlessly in this dazzling novel."--Entertainment Weekly

"Being related to Virginia Woolf can't have been easy. In this delightful novel, Parmar re-imagines the brilliant, fragile writer and her turn-of-the-century bohemian friends, the famous Bloomsbury set. . . . You'll be spellbound."--People

"Rarely do you encounter a woman who commands as much admiration as does the painter Vanessa Bell in Priya Parmar's multilayered, subtly shaded novel. . . . She has caught the phantom."--The New York Times Book Review

" A] gossipy, entertaining historical novel . . . Parmar conjures a devastating fictional portrait."--USA Today

"Captivating . . . echoes of Austen's Sense and Sensibility emerge in Parmar's portrayal."--Newsday

"An elegant, entertaining novel that brings new life to the Bloomsbury Group's intrigues."--The Dallas Morning News

From the Hardcover edition.


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'Radiantly original. Irrepressible, with charm and brio to spare. Prepare to be dazzled.' --Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

'Priya Parmar is a powerful new voice in historical fiction. This novel explores the anguished relationship between the Stephen sisters and provides a new view of the artistic, sensual Bloomsbury world, placing Vanessa Bell at the heart of the story.' --Philippa Gregory

'Parmar gives truth and definition to the character of a woman whose nature was as elusive as her influence was profound. She has caught the phantom.' --New York Times Book Review

'A richly compelling and extraordinarily sympathetic portrait ... Works astonishingly well, each voice is real and fully realised, but Vanessa's is resplendent ... A fresh perspective on a story that's already become legend.' --Independent

'A remarkable achievement ... She has had the blessing of Vanessa Bell's granddaughter and daughter-in-law, and her research has been meticulous. But it's the central portrait of Vanessa's emotional life and her journey to a more disillusioned, if pragmatic, self-knowledge, that makes this novel, with its familiar setting, so fresh and compelling.' --Observer

'Given the pages and pages that Bloomsbury Group members wrote about their lives and loves, it seems almost de trop to add to them, yet Parmar has done so skilfully.' --Sunday Times

'Her imagined "diaries" of Vanessa Bell, from 1905 to 1911, are a triumph from first to last. She gets the authorial voice spot-on and skewers Virginia Woolf, Vanessa's sister, in all her ridiculous hauteur.' --Mail on Sunday

'It's not often that you wish a book wouldn't end, but Priya Parmar's second novel about the relationship between the artist Vanessa Bell and her sister, Virginia Woolf, is so deliciously gossipy (while occasionally wonderfully prurient), and almost too beautifully written, to stop at 339 pages ... Parmar brings the players to life in a way that appeals to both the heart and the head.' --Independent on Sunday

'Immerse yourself in this joyously imagined novel ... Superbly controlled and structured, the novel contains a central irony: 'Vanessa' writes like an angel. Bravo.' --Daily Mail

'You don't need a deep knowledge of the Bloomsbury group to appreciate this novel but, if you're a hardcore Bloomsbury addict (like me), it's one of the essential reads of the year ... It's biography as fiction, imagined with almost supernatural brilliance. Bliss.' --The Times

'The Bloomsbury appeal continues ... Captivating from beginning to end.' --Vogue 

'Vanessa and Her Sister is an account of my grandmother's early life, told with faith, elegance and an almost uncanny insight into the subject. But this is also an absorbing work of fiction - and Priya Parmar has made Vanessa's story her own.' --Virginia Nicholson, granddaughter of Vanessa Bell and author of Among the Bohemians

'A perfect balance of granite and rainbow.' --Frances Wilson, Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year 2015

'Anyone who finds Virginia Woolf's life story just as fascinating as her novels will relish Priya Parmar's Vanessa and Her Sister ... Beautifully and sympathetically done, without being sentimental' --Sunday Herald, Book of the Year 2015

Priya Parmar is the author of one previous novel, Exit the Actress. She lives in London and Hawaii.

General Fields

  • : 9781408850237
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : January 2016
  • : February 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Priya Parmar
  • : Paperback
  • : 368