Stephan Lee
January 23, 2015 AT 05:00 AM EST

Vanessa and Her Sister

Current Status
In Season
Ballantine Books
Historical Fiction

We gave it a B+

Virginia Woolf has been mythologized in fiction many times over, from her transcendent genius and immeasurable anguish to her romantic suicide. But Parmar gives voice to—and even seems to embody—Virginia’s talented but overlooked sister, painter Vanessa Bell, through diary entries interspersed with other correspondences that teem with intelligence and intensity. Vanessa’s perspective gives us a rich portrait of the sisters’ complex, often toxic relationship, and their real-life circle of bohemian friends and lovers, which included E.M. Forster and Clive Bell. Whether or not you have a nerdy interest in early-20th-century British intelligentsia, Parmar draws you in with her deeply human characterization of the other sister. B+

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