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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 listeners say about Vanessa and Her Sister

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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unimpressed

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

2 people found this 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.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful

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Fascinating!

I was always intrigued by the Bloomsbury Group,
but had no actual knowledge about who was in the group. I knew of Virginia Woolf, but not of her sister Vanessa Bell. I'm obsessed now.
As an artist, this was the perfect listen while painting in my studio.

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Beautiful writing, amazing women

This book was a pleasure to hear. There are wonderful moments of beautiful thoughtful writing and the characters are larger than life,(though of course, they are real characters). I hadn't known anything about Vanessa Bell and now I have discovered her, and her paintings. We all know that women painters never receive the recognition that male artist receive. So she is a hidden treasure. Their world was full of amazing people who are famous and remarkable in many areas. Most of us know the basic outline of Virginia Wolf's life, but the story and narration give her a vivid presence that is hard to forget.

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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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  • 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.