Delicious. Cloudsitting. Dust motes in August evening light flurrying around bookshelves in Charing Cross Road approaches the sense a reader gets from the very first pages of Priya Parmar’s Vanessa and her Sister – a historical novel about the Bloomsbury set that reimagines and realigns the most famous sisters. No longer Virginia who holds the centre of gravity; it is the quieter ‘bell that rings true’.
I attended the Cambridge Literary Festival for only one event – Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen (among many others) in conversation with Priya Parmar (also author of Exit the Actress). Two friends of longstanding having the kind of conversation they would normally have over cups of tea; the only difference being they were in a public room – the Cambridge Union Chamber – and there were many pairs of ears snuggling in.
I’m an English literature graduate. It is impossible to be unaware of the legacy of Woolf. On my own bookshelf, just behind my Mac, I currently have six Woolfian books. So it is a true delight, a relaxing delight, to listen to Bloomsbury told through the painterly soul of the gentler sister.