Category Archives: Susan Sellers

Vanessa & Virginia – Susan Sellers

Some books you need time away from to reflect before you put your book thoughts down onto paper (or in some cases onto the keyboard) and some you should jot down as soon as you finish them when the book is most vivid. The latest read for the NTTVBG and Kirsty’s choice ‘Vanessa and Virginia’ by Susan Sellers is one of the latter books however life has gotten in the way once more and I have left jotting everything down a little too late and so I am hoping I catch the shine I first felt after reading the book in this post.

‘Vanessa and Virginia’ is the fictional tale of two rather famous sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf and through Vanessa Bell’s eyes and narrative we get a look into the world of these two sisters from their childhood in the dim halls of a house in Hyde Park Gate until fame beckoned and war came making their lives unrecognisable in many different ways. Researched by Sellers, who is also a Woolf expert; this is a very vivid portrayal into the sibling’s lives and in some ways I suppose you could call it ‘historical faction’ if you wished, whatever the genre it does come filled with atmosphere whilst being highly readable.

This book for me personally, regardless of who the two leading women were, told the sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing relationship of two sisters, brought close together (almost cloyingly so) by the deaths of those around them, and afterwards an almost constant struggle evermore to out do one another and compete against the other (and not just creatively) whilst at the same time each constantly seeking the others approval and validation. I thought Sellers managed to write and capture these feelings marvellously. We all love our siblings and yet in minute ways, not to the extremes in this book I hope, do have some small competition with them (everyone will be saying ‘no we don’t’ – you are all big fibbers) and I found that very interesting to read even more so when it reached the extremes in this book.

I don’t know very much about Woolf or Bell and for me that worked to the books advantage. I was totally lost in the lives of the sisters and didn’t know (well apart from Woolf’s rather infamous death) which way the story would go and that kept me reading on along with Sellers wonderful prose. I did wonder if Sellers wrote from the aspect of Bell both because Bell is the lesser known and also as a painter though her Sellers could paint the scenes more intensely and vividly through her eyes, or maybe that’s just me looking for things that aren’t there? I do think the story of Vanessa is a fascinating one from her marriage it’s openness and its decline and the relationships she had afterwards, how the war affected her and how her sister’s fame affected her.

I think writing a fictional book with someone as famous as Woolf as a character can be a blessing and a curse for a book as some people will dash to buy it and either love it or be slightly disappointed or people will be put off.  If that might be you then don’t be put off as I don’t think you have to know anything about the sisters to read this book. In fact I could imagine if you knew too much before this book you might not get quite so much from it because you would already, possibly subconsciously, have certain feelings and prior knowledge of the leading ladies and that could stop this fiction weaving its fictional magic.

It’s interesting that from the discussion (which you can see here) those who knew a lot about Woolf and her life didn’t quite enjoy it as much as those people who didn’t. Well that’s the case on the whole, I am sure there will be Woolf lovers who love it also. It’s a book that I very much enjoyed. I don’t think its changed my thoughts on Woolf in any way or made me want to rush off and read more of her works or more about her (but that might just be my Woolf readings of late rather than this book) it has made me want to find out much, much more about Vanessa Bell though.

Oddly, from the man who the other day mentioned he assumed a book was fact from the start, I would try going into this book leaving all your prior knowledge or assumptions of Woolf and Bell at the door if you can you might just enjoy it all the more. Anyone else agree? Who else has read this and what did you think?

Oh and two things not to forget. One is that there is a rather special ‘Solar’ Competition going on below and the second is that the next NTTVBG meeting will be next Sunday over at Kimbofo’s to talk about ‘The Illusionist’ by Jennifer Johnston, see you there I hope!

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Filed under Not The TV Book Group, Review, Susan Sellers, Two Ravens Press

Not The TV Book Group… The List

So if you guessed that the short list of books for the Not The TV Book Group might include; a Vampire with amnesia, a girl turning into glass, an environmental data collector in post-war France and Virginia Woolf… then well done you! If you hadn’t guessed that intriguing combination then you will be as surprised as Kim, Kirsty, Lynne and myself were after a ‘meeting of minds’ that started at 12pm and finished at about 3pm.

Yes finally we have come up with what we hope will be eight unusual and interesting reads for us all to discuss over 8 Sundays in the next 18 weeks – we decided to take out bank holiday weekends – each one of us inviting you round to our blogs to have a good old chat, maybe some banter and possibly some heated debate. Enough of me waffling on, you just want to know what the books are so without further ado…

I hope you will agree it’s a rather eclectic mixture of genres, authors, stories and publishers and one that you will all want to join in with as we have all very much had you in mind whilst doing this. We have held of starting the first read too soon so you can get to your library, a book store (new or old) or any online places of note to get copies and we really hope you join in. In case you are wondering why I have put links to a certain site on, its just so you can see covers and blurbs etc not because we are affiliated with it, just so you know.

How did I choose from so many books? Well I read maybe the first 20 pages of almost any book that fitted the criteria (out in last five years, hadn’t already written about etc, etc) and then looked at what was a bit different, what would make for good discussion and what would also be readable to more than just me but might take you slightly off the beaten bookish tracks. I then whittled them down till I got four books that matched all that criteria and yet were all very different. I have to say I am really quite pleased as my two favorites were the ones that got chosen from my final four.

I have been hankering after Ali Shaw’s ‘The Girl with the Glass Feet’ ever since I heard the title, which sounds a bit random but it’s the truth. The fact that it has been described as a modern adult fairytale and frankly it was almost  job done. Then reading the synopsis I was sold 100%. It also helped that I won this very recently from the lovely Gaskella as it was a book I had been hankering after for ages, it isn’t physically in the building yet but is on its way!

A mysterious metamorphosis has taken hold of Ida MacLaird – she is slowly turning into glass. Fragile and determined to find a cure, she returns to the strange, enchanted island where she believes the transformation began, in search of reclusive Henry Fuwa, the one man who might just be able to help…Instead she meets Midas Crook, and another transformation begins: as Midas helps Ida come to terms with her condition, they fall in love. What they need most is time – and time is slipping away fast.

Neil Barlett is an author who has quite a cult following but I don’t personally think that he has had enough attention. ‘Skin Lane’ is his third book and is described as a “taut little psycho-shocker” by none other than Will Self an author I really enjoy. I also liked the idea of a thriller being thrown in the mix and it sounds like this will be thrilling and creepy.

At 47, Mr. F’s working life on London’s Skin Lane is one governed by calm, precision and routine. So, when he starts to have frightening, recurring nightmares, he does his best to ignore them. The images that appear in his dream are disturbing – Mr. F can’t for the life of him think where they have come from. After all, he’s a perfectly ordinary middle-aged man. As London’s crooked backstreets begin to swelter in the long, hot summer of 1967, Mr. F’s nightmare becomes an obsession. A chance encounter adds a face to the body that nightly haunts him, and the torments of his sweat-drenched nights lead him – and the reader – deeper into a terrifying labyrinth of rage, desire and shame.”

Do pop and see Dovegreyreader, Kimbofo and Other Stories to find out which were their choices and how they chose them – they will probably be more insightful than me as I feel utterly shattered! Book short listing is fun though tiring, who’d have known? What were the other two… I can’t say I might need them for series two if this one goes well!

I will be posting a new page tomorrow morning with the list, all their covers and their blurbs, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Oh, I have only just realized that both my final chosen books were Costa Award Nominee’s, I am hoping that is a good sign!?! I hope you will be joining in be it here or there or for the whole run. I am now off to have a bookish break; I am truly booked out and so will hand over to you, what do you make of my choices, and of course the list as a whole?

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Filed under Ali Shaw, Jennifer Johnston, Jon Canter, Mary Swan, Neil Bartlett, Not The TV Book Group, Octavia E. Butler, Philippe Claudel, Susan Sellers