SUSAN SELLERS is a professor of English at St. Andrews University in Scotland and coeditor of the Cambridge University Press edition of Virginia Woolf's works. She is a past recipient of the Cannongate Prize for new writing and is the author of many short stories and nonfiction books, as well as the novel, Vanessa and Virginia.
A delectable little book for anyone who ever admired the Bloomsbury group, Sellers's first novel speaks in painter Vanessa Bell's voice as she addresses her sister, Virginia Woolf. The story includes everything one ever imagined that happened in the intimate lives of the sisters and their astounding circle, which burst upon late Victorian England and shattered both the artistic and cultural boundaries of the times. Sellers begins during the girls' childhood with their beloved brother, and as they grow up, she taps into the incest, sexual encounters and homoerotic love with and among the many great minds of the era. The fictional world the author has recreated-of the sisters striving to perfect their respective art forms while trying to keep the reality of children and war and illness at bay-is full of color and intellectual promise and laced with despair and untimely deaths. While the mix of first- and second-person perspectives gets tedious (there are many variations on the theme of "I sensed you watching me"), the narrative's a genuine treat for Bloomsbury fans and those at least vaguely familiar with the milieu. (May) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Sellers's elegant first novel imagines life in Britain's Bloomsbury circle from the point of view of Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf's older sister. Although Vanessa was an accomplished and highly respected artist, her life was overshadowed by that of her more famous sibling. As she gives Vanessa voice, Sellers examines a relationship between sisters in which love and jealousy are constants; a relationship in which relatives, friends, and lovers are sources of support, inspiration, joy, betrayal, and ultimately devastating sorrow. The amazing aspect of this novel is its painterly quality. As Vanessa recalls her life, layer upon layer of memory is applied to create a portrait of color and shadow, a process that is mirrored in the narrator's descriptions of her methods of painting. While this novel may stand on its own as an exploration of sisterly relationships, it will be more appealing and more accessible to readers already familiar with the lives of Bell and Woolf and knowledgeable about the Bloomsbury milieu. Highly recommended for collections of literary fiction-particularly where Woolf is popular. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/09.]-Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Praise for VANESSA AND VIRGINIA: "Sellers's impressionistic prose evokes the near-magical artistic world the two innovative women inhabited. She highlights the interplay of their creative thinking and ways in which they inspired each other... A thorough portait of the complicated dance of sisters."--More Magazine "Instant Classic""Sellers beautifully imagines what it must have meant to be a gifted artist yoked to a sister of dangerous, provocative genius."--Cleveland Plain Dealer "A simple and yet magical tribute to a writer's life."--Seattle Times"Vanessa and Virginia captures the sisters' seesaw dynamic as they vacillate between protecting and hurting each other, depending on who is up and who is down. For all their competition--each picturing the other as more content and successful--they are as intimately connected as twins. Through it all, work is their refuge--from their lives and themselves."--Christian Science Monitor"Sellers's elegant first novel imagines life in Britain's Bloomsbury circle from the point of view of Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf's older sister... The amazing aspect of this novel is its painterly quality. As Vanessa recalls her life, layer upon layer of memory is applied to create a portrait of color and shadow, a process that is mirrored in the narrator's descriptions of her methods of painting...Highly recommended for collections of literary fiction-particularly where Woolf is popular."--Library Journal"A delectable little book for anyone who ever admired the Bloomsbury group... a genuine treat for Bloomsbury fans."--Publishers Weekly "[A] beautifully written exploration of tortured talent, sibling conflicts, domestic discord, disappointed love affairs, and emotional despair."--Booklist"Virginia Woolf may have overshadowed her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, in popular cultural history, but Vanessa was a talented artist, wife, lover and mother in her own right... [Sellers] artfully presents Vanessa, not as a frame to further explore and enhance her more famous sister, but through a full and authentic portrait of a woman whose life has been shaped by tragedy as well as a creative freedom remarkable for her time."--BookpageAdvance Praise for VANESSA AND VIRGINIA: "In short, disconnected scenes of exquisite description and nuanced emotion, Susan Sellers invites us to assemble the pieces into a picture not only of the Bloomsbury circle, but of the exigencies of creative work as outlet, devotion, and anchor. A fascinating, compelling novel written with authority and tenderness."--Susan Vreeland, author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue "Reading Vanessa and Virginia is like swimming across the seabed of the minds of sisters Woolf and Bell- everywhere there are fragments of paintings and scenes from novels and lyrical phrases scattered like sunken treasure. It is a novel both exquisite and haunting. A triumph of the imagination." --Rebecca Stott, author of Ghostwalk "This biographical novel shimmers with brilliant prose yet grounds readers with skilful and accurate period detail. As the author cleverly inhabits the mind of Vanessa, a canny unusual twist to a familiar story keeps readers on the edge. Vanessa and Virginia is a lyrical risk-taking novel, and the risks pay off."--Sally Cline, author of Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise "A beautiful, haunting novel.... I can think of no other work that is as searching, or as revealing in its exploration of the family life or of the complex dynamic of sibling and artistic rivalry of these two artists."--John Burnside, author of A LIE ABOUT MY FATHER "Deftly, apparently effortlessly, Susan Sellers's novel of love, art, and sexual jealousy gives us convincing and intimate access to the relationship between two remarkable sisters. At once pellucid and sophisticated, Vanessa and Virginia is quite simply a pleasure to read."--Robert Crawford, author of FULL VOLUME