The Bloomsbury Set: Bloomsbury Book Club with Priya Parmar

Bloomsbury Institute
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The Bloomsbury Set: Bloomsbury Book Club with Priya Parmar and Amanda Coe

Interview by Frances Spalding

Tuesday 24th March

Frances Spalding will be in conversation with Priya Parmar, author of a dazzling new portrait of Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia Woolf, Vanessa and Her Sister, and Amanda Coe, the BAFTA Award-winning writer of Life in Squares, the BBC dramatization of the lives and loves of the revolutionary Bloomsbury Group, starring James Norton.

Vanessa and Her Sister is about the relationship between Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, a story of devastating betrayal, art and love. Set during the time when the Bloomsbury Set were young and largely unknown, Vanessa and Her Sister is a novel woven together by journal entries and letters that seem entirely real but are actually the fictional work of astonishing new talent, Priya Parmar. 

Woolf expert Frances Spalding interviews Priya Parmar and Amanda Coe about how they plumbed the depths ofthis famous group of friends to depict a riotous journey on screen and on the page. Both are tales of self-destruction, travels around Europe and life at the centre of this charmed circle of friends who ‘lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles’. Join us for this very special (and truly Bloomsbury) Bloomsbury Book Club.

‘It is billed as fiction, but one of the many joys of Priyar Parmar’s Vanessa and Her Sister is that this brilliant epistolary novel reads as if this is a genuine and revelatory new take on Bloomsbury. The voice of Vanessa Bell rings true’ 

Ion Trewin

‘Rarely do you encounter a woman who commands as much admiration as does the painter Vanessa Bell in Priya Parmar’s multilayered, subtly shaded novel, “Vanessa and Her Sister…Parmar’s fabricated journal is an uncanny success. Its entries, plausible and graceful, are imbued with the same voice that can be found in letters by or about Vanessa…In “Vanessa and Her Sister,” Parmar gives truth and definition to the character of a woman whose nature was as elusive as her influence was profound. She has caught the phantom’ 

New York Times


Ticket Details

Book Club tickets are £20 including a copy of Vanessa and Her Sister posted to you in advance, or £10 without the book. Season membership costs £80. To join please email bloomsburyinstitute@bloomsbury.com.

Date: Tuesday 24th March
Time: Drinks at 6pm and talk at 6:30pm
Place: Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP
Tickets: £20 including a hardback book or £10 without the book


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Priya Parmar

A former dramaturg and freelance editor, Priya Parmar was educated at Mount Holyoke College, The University of Oxford and The University of Edinburgh.  She is the author of one previous novel, Exit the Actress.  Priya and her husband and their French bulldog Herbert divide their time between Hawaii and London.

Amanda Coe

Amanda Coe is the BAFTA award-winning writer of Life in Squares, the forthcoming BBC drama about the Bloomsbury Group. She has written extensively for television: her credits include creating the award-winning Channel 4 series As If and writing the feature Margot for BBC4, about Margot Fonteyn. Her adaptation of John Braine's Room At The Top won a BAFTA for best TV miniseries in 2013. What They Do in the Dark, her first novel, was published in 2011 by Virago and Norton. It was followed by Getting Colder in November 2014.

Frances Spalding

Frances Spalding is a biographer, art historian and critic, with a  particular interest in 20th century British art. She has written extensively on Bloomsbury, having published a biography Of Vanessa Bell as well as books on Duncan Grant and Roger Fry. Her introduction to these friends, The Bloomsbury Group, is published in the National  Portrait Gallery’s ‘Insights’ series, and in 2014 she guest curated this gallery’s exhibition on Virginia Woolf and wrote the accompanying book, Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision.

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