Vanessa & Virginia

By Susan Sellers
(Mariner Books, Paperback, 9780547263380, 213pp.)

Publication Date: April 2010

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"You see, even after all these years, I wonder if you really loved me."

Vanessa and Virginia are sisters, best friends, bitter rivals, and artistic collaborators. As children, they fight for attention from their overextended mother, their brilliant but difficult father, and their adored brother, Thoby. As young women, they support each other through a series of devastating deaths, then emerge in bohemian Bloomsbury, bent on creating new lives and groundbreaking works of art. Through everything--marriage, lovers, loss, madness, children, success and failure--the sisters remain the closest of co-conspirators. But they also betray each other.

In this lyrical, impressionistic account, written as a love letter and elegy from Vanessa to Virginia, Sellers imagines her way into the heart of the lifelong relationship between writer Virginia Woolf and painter Vanessa Bell. With sensitivity, imagination, and fidelity to what it known of both lives, Sellers has created a powerful portrait of sibling rivalry.

About the Author
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. This is her first novel.

Conversation Starters from


  1. In the novel’s opening pages, Vanessa writes, "You are my natural ally in my dealings with the world" (p. 5). What do we consider "natural" between siblings? How are sibling alliances different from those between friends, parents, or spouses? Think about your relationship with your siblings, if you have any. Do you feel that they are your natural allies? Why or why not? If you don’t have any siblings, are you envious of the sibling bond?

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