October 18, 2008

Reviews and reactions

Posted in new writing tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:06 pm by Susan

‘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.

‘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.

‘profoundly insightful… Vanessa emerges as such a vibrant, brave, complex and living woman…. the love/hate relationship between the two sisters, the strange exchange of places between them, the tenacity of their attachment to parents, brother, the passion of the affairs are convey so vividly. An extraordinary coup.’

Nicole Ward Jouve, author of Colette.

‘Vanessa and Virginia is a beautifully written novel. Vanessa’s story is formed, as one might expect of an artist-narrator, from painterly prose… Sellers achieves a believable psychological reality in the figure of Vanessa, who, as narrator, leads the reader through a series of interconnected pictures, much as the viewer wanders the corridors of an art gallery pausing from canvas to canvas…Vanessa’s memory moves across years and through moments with sensitivity and grace, so that the reader is seamlessly transported from place to place, event to event, feeling to feeling. It is a difficult structure, but Sellers successfully achieves unity in its execution…

As a Woolf scholar [Sellers] is meticulous in her attention to facts and details, but through Vanessa’s voice she reminds the reader that ‘art is not life’… Sellers does not succumb to sycophancy as both sisters’ foibles and flaws lie side by side with their genius. Her even-handed approach to their strengths and weaknesses creates a believable reality which the reader (Bloomsbury expert or not) can fully appreciate. Sellers’ command of her material, her ability to create Post-impressionist pictures with words and her mastery of the difficult pastiche form, means that her work stands as a literary success in its own right, neither overpowered nor overshadowed by the artistic achievements of her subjects.’

Elizabeth Wright, in The Virginia Woolf Bulletin.

‘I was hugely impressed by this accomplished first novel. It traces the complex artistic and emotional interweaving of the lives of sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. The story, told from Vanessa’s perspective, is passionate, intimate and entirely lacking pretension. The ending comes, as we know it must, with Virginia’s suicide. And yet Susan Sellers has managed to deliver the expected and for it to still shock and upset us. This is a truly great book and I hope to see more from this talented writer.’

Matthew Perren, I-On Edinburgh.

‘Vanessa and Virginia is fictional, but based on real people and events – the childhood of Vanessa and Virginia Stephen, later to be artist Vanessa Bell and novelist Virginia Woolf, and their subsequent lives up to the death of Virginia. It is from the perspective of Vanessa, and addressed to Virginia (though without expecting response). Sellers’ style is not an imitation of Woolf’s, but it has deep similarities – the same beautiful lyricism, use of abstract images, delving into human emotions with an intelligence and compassion which never stumbles into the saccharine… I was wrapped in the beauty of the language and never wanted to leave. [Sellers has written] a beautiful novel which does justice to Bell’s perspective as a very talented painter, overshadowed by a very talented novelist sister, in an unusual group and unusual time. I don’t know where Sellers can go after this, but I look forward to finding out.’

Simon Thomas. For the rest of this review, click on: ‘stuck-in-a-book’ review

‘…not only have I learned something about Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, but it is one of those novels that has something profound to say about human nature.’

Lisa Glass. For the rest of this review, click on: vulpes libris review

‘Vanessa and Virginia, as well as being both subtle and beautifully written, has lots of narrative drive. The descriptions of Vanessa’s paintings, the way they reflect and interact with her complex relationships, are particularly effective.’

Sarah Annes Brown, in Ariachne’s Broken Woof. For the rest of this review, click on Sarah Brown’s review of Vanessa and Virginia

‘Superb, really exceptional!’ Sally Cline, author of Zelda Fitzgerald.

beautifully written – vivid yet economical’ Deborah Arnander, translator

‘a very remarkable achievement – seamless play between two worlds, fact and fiction’

Andrew McNeillie, editor of Virginia Woolf’s diaries and essays.

‘rich and economic – packed with concentrated language

which I wanted to say out loud for the pleasure of it!’ Alesha Racine, poet.

‘incredibly evocative, particularly the childhood section’

Anna Snaith, author of Virginia Woolf.

‘it’s a book you read and re-read and read again for the sensual pleasure that carries you through as fast as the child [Virginia] skipping off to look up the virgin queen in her father’s library’

Angela Morgan Cutler, author of Auschwitz.

‘I was impressd by the beauty of the language, by the compression, by the way that the technique, like Cather’s “touch and pass on”, creates such a resonant text for readers even for readers who have themselves read a great deal of Woolf’.

Melba Cuddy-Keane, author of Virginia Woolf: The Intellectual and the Public Sphere.

‘boldly sustained in its central narrative device, not to mention the marvellous “painterly” detail’

Christine Crow, author of Miss X or the Wolf Woman.