Named Best Book of the Year by Elle Magazine UK
Editor's Choice for the New York Times Sunday Book Review
Selected by public library staff across the nation as one of the 'Top 10 LibraryReads Titles for January 2015'
Chosen for Vanity Fair's 'Hot Type: The Books You Need To Read This Month'
‘Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Authors Spring 2015 Pick’
‘January 2015 Indie Next List Pick’
Chosen as an Oprah.com 'Mesmerizing Read'
Chosen as one of O Magazine's Ten Titles to Pick Up Now"
Chosen as one of the Christian Science Monitor's "Ten Best Books of'January'
Chosen as Book of the Week in People Magazine
Chosen to be on Entertainment Weekly's 'Must List'
Chosen to be an US Weekly 'Book to Read Now!'
Chosen for Good Housekeeping 'Hot Reads'
“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, “Vanessa and Her Sister…Parmar’s fabricated journal is an uncanny success. Its entries, plausible and graceful, are imbued with the same voice that can be found in letters by or about Vanessa…In “Vanessa and Her Sister,” 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.”
—The New York Times Book Review
"In this delightful novel, Parmar reimagines the brilliant, fragile writer and her turn-of-the-century bohemian friends, the famous Bloomsbury set, through the eyes of her painter sister Vanessa…You’ll be spellbound.”
—People Magazine ‘Book of the Week for January 5’
“In her gossipy, entertaining historical novel about the British bohemians, Priya Parma conjures a devastating fictional portrait of one of those triangles – the great writer Virginia Woolf (A Room of One's Own, To the Lighthouse); her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell; and Vanessa's husband, art critic Clive Bell...Parmar's perceptive and well-informed fill-in-the-blanks approach — and her elegant, accessible style — makes for some tasty, frothy Bloomsbury pie, indeed.”
—USA Today, 3 ½ out of 4 stars (Weekend Pick for Book Lovers)
“Fiction and history merge seamlessly in this dazzling novel about an incredible circle of bohemian artists in early 20th century London particularly the rivalry between two famous sisters, writer Virginia Woolf and painter Vanessa Bell.”
—Entertainment Weekly 'Must List'
“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 (UK)
"In this impressive novel, everyone is afraid of Virginia Woolf… Vanessa and Her Sister is a remarkable achievement, all the more so for being only Parmar’s second novel. She has had the blessing of Vanessa Bell’s granddaughter and daughter-in-law, and her research has clearly 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."
— The Guardian (UK)
“Vanessa and Her Sister illuminates Virginia Woolf’s backstory from a striking perspective…Parmar has captured a thrilling, terrifying feeling of infinite possibility, reimagining an intimate time when these future icons are still “living on the borrowed fuel of potential and so far have not left deep footprints,” as the 26-year-old Vanessa muses early in the novel.”
“Captivating from beginning to end.”
“In her graceful, captivating second novel, Priya Parmar imagines the lives and loves of the famous Stephen sisters, Vanessa and Virginia.”
“Parmar inhabits the gilded ‘bohemian hinterland’ of Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa, creating a vibrant fictional homage.”
— O: The Oprah Magazine 'Ten Titles to Pick Up Now'
The literary-historical novel is a tricky thing. Too freewheeling, and it’s fan-fic for English majors; too dutifully true, and it’s pointless. Parmar uses the familiarity of her subject, the Bloomsbury Group, as a head start, burrowing deeper into the minds and mores of England’s liberal vanguard (especially narrator Vanessa Bell, the sensible painter chronically overshadowed by her sister, Virginia Woolf). The pretzeled plot unfolds at a steady pace, in crisp period prose, and rarely feels inevitable.
— New York Magazine
'Novel Gives Voice to Virginia Woolf's Overshadowed Sister'
— NPR Interview: 'Weekend Edition with Linda Wertheimer'
"Priya Parmar’s Vanessa and Her Sister, however, draws a richly compelling and extraordinarily sympathetic portrait of a woman struggling to extricate herself from her sister’s loving but desperate clutches, and live, for want of a better phrase, a life of her own…Parmar has her Vanessa tell the story of her tumultuous relationship with Virginia, her marriage to Clive, and early motherhood through diary entries. It’s a device that works astonishingly well, each voice is real and fully realised, but Vanessa’s is resplendent."
— The Independent (UK)
“Somewhere between Downton Abbey and Keeping Up With the Kardashians, this provides enough scandal and family drama to keep the pages turning”
— Harper's Bazaar
“When we think about Virginia Woolf…we think about her remarkable literary output and her gimlet-eyed observations of the world around her. But what of those observing the observer? And who could know Woolf better than her sister? Author Priya Parmar ambitiously attempts to show us through the eyes of Vanessa Bell, a celebrated painter in her own right, in her inventive, meticulously researched Vanessa and Her Sister…The anchor and soul of the book is Vanessa’s diary, as imagined by Parmar…The Bloomsbury Group were famous for their weekly salons, which were fueled by intellectual discourse, banter and booze; in Parmar’s story, you can almost hear the glasses tinkling. But the author’s greatest triumph is giving voice to the steady, loyal, motherly Vanessa, who lived nobly in her sister’s shadow, only to experience heartbreaking betrayal.”
— Good Housekeeping
“It is billed as fiction, but one of the many joys of Priyar Parmar's Vanessa and Her Sister is that this brilliant epistolary novel reads as if this is a genuine and revelatory new take on Bloomsbury. The voice of Vanessa Bell rings true”
— Ion Trewin, Literary Director, Booker Prize Foundation
“This novel about sisters of Bloomsbury is a twofer: Read it for the story; literary history is a bonus.”
— AARP Bulletin 'Best New Reads'
You'll get lost in the worlds of Vanessa Bell and her sister, Virginia Woolf, as they struggle to make it as a painter and an author, respectively, in prewar London—but more so than art, this is a story of sisterhood.
— Glamour Magazine
“TMZ would have loved the Bloomsbury Group. This early 20th-century London circle of writers and artists centered around Virginia Woolf and her painter sister, Vanessa Bell. It included the novelist E.M. Forster, economist John Maynard Keynes and painter Duncan Grant, and it was a prolific generator of scandal — through open marriages, bisexuality and family betrayal, Priya Parmar’s Vanessa and Her Sister is an elegant, entertaining novel that brings new life to the Bloomsbury Group’s intrigues.”
—Dallas Morning News
“Vanessa and Her Sister provides a fascinating take on this literary family, and the affection and exasperation Virginia’s sister might have felt living with a genius, who was prone to fits of madness. If you’re at all interested in Virginia Woolf, or just a fan of a good piece of historical fiction, in the vein of The Paris Wife, this book’s the one for you.”
“The plot — as pretzeled as Bloomsbury’s round-robin of love affairs—unfolds at the steady pace of time, in crisp period prose, and rarely feels inevitable.”
— Vulture.com (Entertainment website of New York Magazine)
“Parmar’s captivating second novel tells the story of the legendary Bloomsbury group from the perspective of Virginia Woolf’s sister Vanessa...Through letters and Vanessa’ s journal entries, [Parmar] captures the excitement of social experimentation – single men and women gathering for intellectual talks at home...a subtle exploration of the sisters’ complicated emotional life.”
“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
“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 (UK)
“I romped through this novel and longed for more … Edwardian London, from Fortnum's Dundee cake to the first post-impressionist exhibition, comes to life. Roll on a sequel”
— The Economist's Intelligent Life
“Compellingly involving, it captures with a light touch the hothouse emotionalism of Bloomsbury's tangled relationships … Overwhelmingly, however, this is pitch perfect: sensitively handled, unsensational and persuasive”
— Country Life (UK)
“The book's strength lies in the well-written relationship between Vanessa and Virginia, sure to appeal to fans of Michael Cunningham's The Hours.”
— Library Journal
“Parmar does a stellar job conveying Virginia’s complicated, almost incestuous feelings for Vanessa…The author also deftly brings to life the various artists and writers who formed the nascent Bloomsbury group…Parmar’s narrative is riveting and successfully takes on the task of turning larger-than-life figures into real people…[she] weaves their stories together so effortlessly that nothing seems out of place.'
— Publishers Weekly (Starred review)
“A devoted, emotionally intense portrait of the Bloomsbury group focuses in particular on sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf…Vanessa, the artist, emerges as ‘an ocean of majestic calm,’ almost infinitely tolerant of her sister, the writer, whose capricious, jealous nature, though tempered by intellectual brilliance and immense charm, tips over at times into madness and suicidal thoughts. [Vanessa’s] nuanced account of her shifting feelings for Clive and eventual love for another invites sympathy…Not exactly uncharted territory, but Parmar enters it with passion and precision.”
— Kirkus (Starred review)
“Readers are in for a treat. Vanessa Bell is the sister of Virginia Woolf, and thus you can imagine why this novel is just wonderful. It's rich with atmospheric detail and gives an intimate look into the inner circle known as the Bloomsbury Group.”
Said sister is Virginia Woolf. A novel exploring the complicated relationship between Vanessa Bell and Virginia, sometimes manic, sometimes depressed, and determined to keep a firm hold on her sister. Vanessa understands Virginia is ill, but the relationship is nonetheless trying.
— New York Daily News ‘Books: New and Noteworthy’
Priya Parmar's novel Vanessa and Her Sister is a must read for fans of Virginia Woolf, as the book tells the story of Vanessa Bell and her sister, Virginia Woolf, as they rise to fame as part of the Bloomsbury Group.
— Popsugar 'December 'Must Read'
“Priya Parmar is a powerful new voice in historical fiction. This novel explores the anguished relationship between the Woolf sisters and provides a new view of the artistic, sensual Bloomsbury world, placing Vanessa Bell at the heart of the story.”
— Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl
“Priya Parmar is on a high-wire act all her own in this radiantly original novel about the Bloomsbury Set. Irrepressible, with charm and brio to spare, Vanessa and Her Sister boldly invites us to that moment in history when famous minds sparked and collided, shaping the terrain of art and letters. But it’s the two sisters who are most bewitching here—rocking on the brink of unforgivable transgression, changing each other in ways far-reaching and profound. Prepare to be dazzled.”
— Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
“I loved this brilliant depiction of the true price of genius. Vanessa Bell glows at the heart of the Bloomsbury Group as she protects her sister, Virginia, even at the expense of her own happiness. Parmar's novel shines a bright light into the empty spaces between the lines of history.”
— Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
“With sparkling wit and insight, Priya Parmar sets us down into the legendary Bloomsbury household of the Stephen siblings, where sisters Vanessa and Virginia vie for love and primacy amidst a collection of eccentric guests. Parmar’s wonderful telling brings to life the difficulties of being responsible for an unstable family member, especially one as brilliant and cunning as Virginia Woolf was. Vanessa and Her Sister kidnapped me for a couple of days. I couldn’t put it down.”
— Nancy Horan, author of Under the Wide and Starry Sky and Loving Frank
“Vanessa and Her Sister is the novel I didn't know I was waiting for and it is, quite simply, astonishing. Not just because of Priya Parmar’s preternatural skill at evoking the moment when the lid was coming off the Victorians, and the heated talk about art, life, and sex swirled through Bloomsbury, but because of how she has caught the two sisters at the center of that swirl—the women who would become Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. Virginia’s story is the one most often told, but it is Vanessa—the painter, observer, the woman struggling to balance her marriage and her art under the near-constant gimlet gaze of a younger sister willing to tip that balance—whose story this is. It is beautiful, wise, and deft as a stroke upon the canvas.”
— Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress
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