Vanessa and Virginia are sisters, best friends, bitter rivals, and artistic collaborators. As children, they fight for attention from their overextended mother, their brilliant but difficult father, and their adored brother, Thoby. As young women, they support each other through a series of devastating deaths, then emerge in bohemian Bloomsbury, bent on creating new lives and groundbreaking works of art. Through everything - marriage, lovers, loss, madness, children, success and failure - the sisters remain the closest of co-conspirators. But they also betray each other.
In this lyrical, impressionistic account, written as a love letter and elegy from Vanessa to Virginia, Sellers imagines her way into the heart of the lifelong relationship between writer Virginia Woolf and painter Vanessa Bell. With sensitivity, imagination, and fidelity to what it known of both lives, Sellers has created a powerful portrait of sibling rivalry.
What did you like best about Vanessa and Virginia? What did you like least?
I certainly was intriqued by the topic, title, etc. The wording was wonderful, images clear. Roslyn is my all time favorite reader.
I was impatient and bored some. I didn't finish the book. Unusual for me (I listen to 2-3 books/week)
What did you like best about this story?
I really loved getting more into the mindset and historical background of Virginia.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
If I had a sister, perhaps this novel would have rung more true to me; as it is, I found it irritating, and I gave up on it several times before finally forcing myself to finish it. The story of Vanessa Bell, a respected artist, and her sister, novelist Virginia Woolf, seemed dominated by one emotion: jealousy. Vanessa, the narrator, who writes this memoir of sorts to "you," her dead sister, is jealous of any attention their mother pays to Virginia, of any time their brother Toby spends with Virginia, of Virginia's seemingly uncomplicated marriage, and, of course, of Virginia's literary genius and success. Poor Vanessa: the only thing she has that Virginia can envy is her children. Yet she seems inevitably tied to her sister--although it's hard to determine whether that is due to love, a sense of responsibility, or simply wanting to be a part of Virginia's literary legend. It's hard to like a narrator who comes off as a spoiled drama queen.
In addition to the direct address to "you," the novel's style is very mannered--and not in a good way. Another reader mentioned the first name dropping. While I know who Maynard, Wilfred, Clive, Duncan, Lytton and others are, it's a snobbish stylistic mannerism that excludes readers who might actually have picked up the book to learn more about Vanessa, Virginia, and the Bloomsbury group. As to vocabulary, sentence structures, and images, if Sellers was trying to depict Vanessa-the-memoir-writer as a bad writer trying to hard to compete with Virginia, it worked; otherwise, it was just bad, pretentious writing.
I gave this novel two stars for the concept, even if badly executed; but I can't really recommend it. Rosalind Landor does her usual competent job of narrating the audio version, although I personally find her accent a bit slushy.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful