March 06, 2010

Vanessa & Virginia - Susan Sellers


Following on from the Woolf In Winter Read Along I am keen to keep reading Woolf's novels and any other Woolf related fiction, biography etc.. That's why I jumped at the chance to read the latest selection from The Not The TV Book Group's reading schedule - Vanessa & Virginia being discussed this weekend over at Other Stories.

Vanessa & Virginia is a fictional account of the lives of the sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf and it captures the period from their childhood up until adulthood and Virginia's death. I think having a vague understanding of knowledge of the background to the sister's lives was helpful in reading and enjoying this book but certainly not essential. I think the author has created a beautiful stand alone story of the lives of two sisters - loving companions but also rivals in their creative and personal lives. The fact that the story focuses on two such famous and interesting people is a bonus for me!

Susan Sellers' writing style and descriptions are divine - from the beginning of the story I was hooked and I had entered the world of the characters completely. I find this an amazing skill that some writers have - to make me care about what is happening within the story - to care about the outcome. I thought it was particularly clever in this situation when the story and the lives of the characters are so well known to many.

I could open any page of this novel and quote a beautiful, lyrical passage - I found the way the author paralleled her writing style with the creative pursuits of Vanessa and Virginia wonderful;

The frame of a window, blue paint blistering in the Mediterranean sun. I am arrested, dazzled by colour, the cascading searlet of a pot of hibiscus, the glaring whitewash of a wall. It is as if the colours, first separately, then collectively, strike a series of notes that sets up a resonating chord in me. I am impelled to paint it.

An amazing book in both content and structure and one that has only made me want to continue my Woolf reading even further.

9 comments:

thecaptivereader said...

I'm not a particular fan of Woolf and, if not for the Not the TV Book Group, I never would have picked this one up. I am so glad that I did! From the first page, from the first paragraph, I was enthralled.

I have to admit that I left my reading it a little late (starting Saturday mid-day) but I am enjoying it so much that it will easily be finished in time for me to join the discussion tomorrow!

Karen said...

Hi thecaptivereader - it sounds like you and I had a very similar response to this one. I hope Sellers has another book on the horizon...

claire said...

I wasn't able to get a copy in time, too bad. :( But it's so good to hear you loved it.

Kirsty said...

Hi Karen, I'm really pleased that you enjoyed Vanessa and Virginia! I was a bit nervous when I picked it because I know that Woolf can be a divisive person at the best of times! I'm thrilled that most people seemed to have loved the book as much as I did! Hope to see everyone over on my blog as the discussion continues. And Claire AKA Captive Reader, worry not, the discussion will be permanently open so do pop over and add your thoughts whenever you're finished.

Karen said...

Hi Claire - I hope you manage to find a copy if you are interested in reading it all - a gorgeous book and a quick read too.

Hi Kirsty - It's always a bit nerve racking to be responsible for choosing a book for so many different readers. You can definitely pat yourself on the back for this one from my perpective!

Hannah Stoneham said...

This sounds very interesting indeed. I have read about Vanessa and Virginia separately but I have never actually read a book that deliberately treats them both together so I think I might add this to my list! Excellent review, thanks for sharing

Hannah

bookssnob said...

Oooh I really really want to read this! Vanessa and Virginia fascinate me as people and this book sounds so up my street. A library visit to pick this up will be in my near future, I can tell!

savidgereads said...

It's a wonderful book isnt it Karen?

I have to admit I voted for it out of the four Kirsty originially chose because of Wollf an wanting to push myself which then became a worry after me and Ginnys rocky relationship. It is just such a delightful read that I almost forgot the sisters were who they were and just got involved in the writing and their lives.

Karen said...

Hi Hannah - I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Hi bookssnob - I definitely think you would enjoy this one!

Hi Simon - The more I think about this one the more I fall in love with it! I'm so glad you enjoyed it too after your rocky start to Ginny - maybe this is the start of something special??