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Publisher's Summary

For fans of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank comes a captivating novel that offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of Vanessa Bell, her sister Virginia Woolf, and the controversial and popular circle of intellectuals known as the 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.

©2014 Priya Parmar (P)2014 Random House Audio

What members say

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  • Overall

Vanessa and her Sister

Very good book. Draws in the reader, immerses the reader in the historical art and literary scene of the day. It was quite interesting to have a glimpse of Virginia Wolfe as a sibling might have viewed her.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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No Sparkle, No Brilliance; Bloomsbury Bores.

Because this book was about Vanesssa Bell & Virginia Woolf, I stuck it out to the end hoping it would have some sort of interesting windup. But alas, this author manages to make the fascinating and artistic Bloomsbury group boring. While the book starts off reasonably interesting, with some beautiful language and interesting descriptions of the environments where the family spends its time. But as the novel winds on, the tension between Vanessa and Virginia becomes no more interesting than a sibling rivalry between a manic depressive and a boring housewife who dabbles in painting. While there are plenty of allusions in Vanessa's diary and the letters of their circle to Virginia's brilliance, it never actually shows - the only part of Virginia we see is is either talking baby talk or shrieking to herself. Though Bell was a talented and important painter, all we see is housewifely exhaustion and boring details about her babies. The farther into the book you go, the more repetitive it gets. ZZZ.

Narrator does a fantastic job.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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thoroughly enjoyable listen

Would you listen to Vanessa and Her Sister again? Why?

yes!!! because it is a compelling and well performed story

Who was your favorite character and why?

can't choose . . .love them all

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

yes, LOVE IT!!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Astonishing

Where does Vanessa and Her Sister rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Either first or second.

What other book might you compare Vanessa and Her Sister to and why?

I would compare it to Anansi Boys narrated by Lenny Henry because the narration is so good you lose yourself in it.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Since this book is written as a diary and letters, it is wonderful to hear because it's like the author of the diary or the letter is speaking out loud what he/she is writing down.

If you could rename Vanessa and Her Sister, what would you call it?

I would not rename it. The name is perfect, giving Vanessa Bell the headline.

Any additional comments?

Vanessa Bell was already my favorite Bloomsbury; if you have any interest in the Bloomsbury group, you will love this. If you don't know Bloomsbury, this is a splendid introduction. I am now going to go choose a Virginia Woolf novel to listen to.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Beautifully written.

A book you never want to end. It's as though the author inhabited Bloomsbury, intimately knowing the characters and values their place and contributions to early 20th century art, literature and culture.

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Transportive

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes: to friends who are fans of Bloomsbury group members. It is transportive and engrossing. I felt thoroughly immersed into their world view and way of life, and I found each of their characters fascinating in their own ways.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Vanessa Bell, though I enjoyed Lytton Strachey a lot also. I loved the tone given to Vanessa Bell: measured but personal at the same time. Very compelling.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Each narrator brought the character to life in a nuanced, intriguing way. The only narrator I did not enjoy was the narrator for Virginia Woolf because she sounded older than Vanessa Bell's narrator, which, of course, is not right, and because she made Virginia Woolf sound even more cloying than I think she was. I found her very hard to listen to, while the others were a joy, through and through.

If you could rename Vanessa and Her Sister, what would you call it?

The name seems appropriate, other than the book is certainly about more than the two of them. It is about their whole circle, but certainly Vanessa and Virginia's relationship is fairly central to the narrative.

Any additional comments?

I visited Charleston Farmhouse (home of Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, Duncan Grant, and Maynard Keynes...) while in the middle of listening to this book, which I highly recommend. I can't think of a better book to read/listen to when immersing oneself in the Bloomsbury world. It was a deep pleasure.

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unimpressed

the story was so so but the narrator was good. the characters were also interesting.

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  • T
  • 07-08-16

Scandalous in an era gone bye

Fantastic depiction of Vanessa and Virginia and their lives and Bloomsbury Group of friends.
I loved the scandal especially in the time.

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Artistic Women of the Early 20th Century

What did you love best about Vanessa and Her Sister?

I really enjoyed Vanessa and Her Sister a whole lot. Granted, my enjoyment of the book may be influenced by my life experiences. I did a study aboard to London in college and one of the classes I took there was "World War I and Modernism." We read two books by Virginia Woolf, saw Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant's paintings in person, and walked through Bloomsbury where all the figures in this novel lived and from whence the name of the group derives. I also read articles by Clive Bell and Roger Fry during my art history studies, and I've read Howard's End by E.M Forster and have seen multiple film version of A Room With a View. I admit that I was well prepped for this novel. But, I still was amazed by how much I liked it. Priya Parmar's book had a really nice, quiet feel to it and felt very period appropriate.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I loved listening to this book. It was really interesting to get to know the Bloomsbury Group on a personal level. The letter format was slightly confusing in audio form until I got used to it and then I loved it. I love how personal Vanessa's voice is. The letters from the other characters help to round out the story. (Lytton Strachey's are often quite entertaining.) I also thought found the period elements of this book to be really well done. I think fans of Downton Abbey might enjoy this book. I loved the traveling and the cozy feel of the first half of the book. The reading experience reminded me a little of A Brief History of Montmarey just in terms of the overall atmosphere and tone (and also because the Thobys reminded me of each other).

Any additional comments?

The ending of this book feels a little incomplete. (But, really, how do you create a conclusion to novel about the lives of real people if you don't want to write a book that goes to the ends of their lives?) I would actually love to listen to a sequel. I wouldn't mind continuing with Vanessa as the main character (how does she end up with Duncan Grant?) or switching over to Virginia and seeing her point of view as she marries, begins publishing novels, has an affair with Vita Sackville West, struggles with mental illness. It could be really great.

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Riveting

This absorbing book about those fascintint inhabitants of Bloomsbury is wonderfully researched with all sorts of new insights into the life and times of Vanessa Bell, her sister, Virginia Wolf, their brothers and brilliant friends.

Wonderfully read by a cast of five. I especially enjoyed hearing the letters written to various friends and lovers, of Lytton Strachey, who expounds on the deficiencies, and to be fair, also the efficiencies, of his pals. I grew to love the man for his wit and insight. Actually, I enjoyed the, every minute of this listen.