Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Life of One's Own

Vanessa and Her SisterVanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it. It’s hard to imagine a fresh take on Bloomsbury until reading this truly wonderful novel. With lush and lyrical prose Priya Parmar draws a portrait of love—many portraits, in fact. Presented as a journal/scrapbook—journal entries are interspersed with letters and telegrams from others to others—the story is told from Vanessa’s point of view, and covers the period whence the Bloomsbury circle formed until Leonard Woolf’s return to Britain from India. As is common with young, smart, artistic people, the focus is mainly on romantic love of the difficult kind: unrequited love, desperate love, stupid love, forbidden love, mad love, dangerous love—and damaging love. Of course this is what makes a story about rich, privileged people who take themselves (too) seriously a universal story, and by focusing on Vanessa, Parmar brings in familial love and the love of friends as well. At its core, the novel is the story of a woman’s (not a young girl’s) coming of age, a glimpse into what it is to love a person doomed to madness, and an exploration of what it takes to remain a stable personality amidst the whirl and wonder of the creative lifepath.  There are layers and depth here, and beautiful sentences to be savored.
(I received an E-galley of the novel for review from Ballantine and Netgalley)

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