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Review: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar


It can break your heart to have a sister like Virginia Woolf.

The journal, diary entries with the postcards, letters et all provide an intimacy and authenticity to the narrative. I felt as if I was perusing a scrapbook, journal of sorts bonding with parties involved.

We are given hints to Virginia’s fragile mental health, as the story progresses we learn of the continued concern of her state of mind. Her meltdowns visited. Vanessa the thread holding the fabric of the family together, her shoulders bear the burden of responsibility, protectress, nurturer. Highs and lows palpable as we ride the wave of evolving family and friendships. I can’t image such a gifted group of people not embracing unconventionality and its agony and ecstasy. Would have loved being part of this esteemed group if only for an evening.

I was exhausted as I read of Vanessa, her ongoing concern of her sister, Virginia’s betrayal along with her marriage slipping it must have been trying. She puts herself last and its toll obvious. I found her frustrating and endearing. Virginia’s possessive attachment toward Vanessa specifically utterly suffocating. Vanessa placed in a precarious position of balancing Clive, Virginia and motherhood, the scales always unbalanced.

The plethora of characters took some getting used to, it was a challenge to familiarize myself with all involved. A few characters were dynamic, others trifling. Vanessa stole the show, with her vulnerability, smart and resilience. She carries herself with grace and poise under the most difficult of circumstances. Finally Vanessa realizes her self-importance and stops sidestepping her desires, I was relieved with this poignant revelation.

Ambitious and successful effort on Parmar’s part. I found the book utterly fascinating, raw and memorable.

About Priya Parmar3184722

I am a former dramaturg and freelance editor, educated at Mount Holyoke College, The University of Oxford and The University of Edinburgh. I am the author of one previous novel, Exit the Actress. My husband and I and our French bulldog Herbert, divide our time between Hawaii and London. Hello.

Leave a comment


  1. This one has been on my TBR pile forever! I’ll have to give it a try. Nice review!

    • Thank you Melissa. Intense story, really examines the bonds of sisters. I think you’ll enjoy it, hope so. I look forward to your review. I’m trying to catch up on my TBR pile. I keep adding more than subtracting. Pretty sure I’m a book addict without a doubt, no I don’t want rehab, just need more room for all my books. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.


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