Indian-origin author Priya Parmar’s historical novel “Vanessa and Her Sister”, has been included in the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2015.
Described as “A novel of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, constructed around an invented diary and letters,” the Times calls it a “multilayered, subtly shaded novel”.
Parmar’s portrait brings noted modernist English writer Woolf’s sister “Vanessa out of the shadows, into fully realised, shining visibility”, the influential daily said in its book review.
“The world remembers Virginia better than her enigmatic older sister: Parmar restores the symmetry of their relationship in the familial landscape, showing how essential Vanessa’s steadying force was to Virginia’s precarious balance,” it notes.
“The facts of Vanessa’s complicated life have long been available, even if her private thoughts are harder to surmise, since, unlike Virginia, she didn’t keep a diary,” the Times review noted.
“After immersing herself in the thousands of letters exchanged by Vanessa’s social circle, Parmar proceeded to invent a diary for Vanessa, along with a series of letters, postcards and telegrams that bring dimension and vitality to her headstrong entourage,” it said.
Parmar’s narrative spans nearly eight years in the early adult lives of the sisters, from 1905 to 1912 beginning with a February 23, 1905, diary entry by Vanessa.
“Parmar’s fabricated journal is an uncanny success,” the Times review said. “Its entries, plausible and graceful, are imbued with the same voice that can be found in letters by or about Vanessa.”
“And Parmar’s decision to interleave the invented diary with invented correspondence heightens the authentic feel of the portrait,” it said.
In “Vanessa and Her Sister”, the Times said, “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.”
Author of one previous novel, “Exit the Actress,” Parmar divides her time between Hawaii and London.
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