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The Vanishing Half: Shortlisted for the Women's Prize 2021 Kindle Edition
THE SUNDAY TIMES TOP BESTSELLER
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE
'An utterly mesmerising novel..I absolutely loved this book' Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the Booker Prize 2019
'Epic' Kiley Reid, O, The Oprah Magazine
'Favourite book [of the] year' Issa Rae
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' story lines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
Bennett balances the literary demands of dynamic characterization with the historical and social realities of her subject matter. . . there is such depth, possibility and dramatic propulsion . . a brave foray into vast and difficult terrain. . . .The novel raises thorny questions about the cost of blackness. The answers are complicated ― New York Times Book Review
Stunning . . . Bennett pulls it off brilliantly . . . Few novels manage to remain interesting from start to finish, even - maybe especially - the brilliant ones. But . . . Bennett locks readers in and never lets them go ― Los Angeles Times
Deeply compelling . . . brilliantly creates a network of characters - singular and vivid . . . There are moments . . . that stun with quiet power . . . The Vanishing Half more than succeeds as a beautifully imagined story about an American family ― USA Today
As thought-provoking as it is engrossing ― Oprah magazine
Brit Bennett has learned a lot from Toni Morrison - the use of uncanny rural communities in the South/Midwest; twins/doppelgängers to explore the extreme edges of the American Dream; whip-smart dialogue - but her exquisite slowness and patience of tone are unique. A wonderful, cosseting read ― Paul Mendez, author of Rainbow Milk
The Vanishing Half is an utterly mesmerising novel. It seduces with its literary flair, surprises with its breath-taking plot twists, delights with its psychological insights, and challenges us to consider the corrupting consequences of racism on different communities and individual lives. I absolutely loved this book ― Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the Booker Prize
A novel of immense, shining, powerful intelligence ― Deborah Levy
The Vanishing Half should mark the induction of Brit Bennett into the small group of likely successors to Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston and Nella Larsen. I read it torn between competing urges: I wanted to greedily turn the pages, yet I also wanted to savour every word, lingering as long as I could with the delicious feeling of being sunk so deep into the story that every time I set the book aside it felt like coming up for air. Compelling, compassionate and astonishingly good ― Sara Collins
A potent, generous, and masterful novel. Bennett is a humane and supple story-teller we are lucky to have ― Olivia Sudjic
An impressive and arresting novel. Perceptive in its insights and poised in execution, this is an important, timely examination of the impact of race on personality, experience and relationships ― Diana Evans
Superb. A gorgeously immersive novel. It deftly explores the dichotomies of twinship, passing and class in America ― Irenosen Okojie
The detail and the feeling showcased in every sentence Brit Bennett writes is breathtaking. The Vanishing Half is a novel that shows just how human emotion, uncertainty and longing can be captured and put on paper ― Candice Carty-Williams
The Vanishing Half does exactly what a great novel is meant to do. It fills you with questions, exposes you to realities you may never have thought of and of course keeps you up into the night reading. The characters in this book are so real, so warm and so very complicated. I loved every part of it, even when it was making me sad or angry. It's just such a beautiful story -- Luan Goldie
Brit Bennett is a tremendous talent ― Imbolo Mbue
A powerful, tender family epic which reminds us directly and poignantly that things are not black and white ― Louisa Young
Bennett's mesmerising gem is a masterclass of moving storytelling. The Vanishing Half is also a thought provoking
assessment of race and social politics in post-war America .. . The powerful plot twists will keep you gripped until the end
The Vanishing Half is an immersive story about family, identity and belonging ― Red
A novel about motherhood and race, incredibly clever and interrogates race with nuance . . . Compulsively readable . . . An incredible talent . . . a book to look forward to ― The High Low podcast
A lyrical mediation on identity, race and gender. Bennett explores the selves we choose to be, as well as the selves we have imposed on us with great empathy and precision. The Vanishing Half is a gorgeous, generous novel and written with true heart -- Elizabeth Day
Stunning . . . seamless and suspenseful . . . engrossing and surprisingly apolitical . . . The result is a novel that reads effortlessly . . . There is tremendous, timeless wisdom here -- AV Club
This ticks all the boxes for me - enticing plot, memorable characters, all wrapped up in beautiful writing . . . an astounding book -- Nina Pottell ― Prima
The Vanishing Half is one of this year's most anticipated books . . . Sweeping and ambitious . . . Combining an addictive story (it's perfect for book clubs ) with serious questions of racism, social expectations, lies, love and compassion - this is an unforgettable read ― Stylist
Bennett is a gifted storyteller. This generous, humane novel has many merits, not least its engrossing plot and richly detailed settings -- Michael Donkor ― Guardian
A thought-provoking read ― Woman & Home
Fascinating and beautifully written ― Good Housekeeping
An entirely mesmerising novel ― Psychologies
A bold, skilful storyteller . . . a novel that deftly rehearses the history of prejudice and suffering leading up to the present moment. It's a clever balancing act indeed to pair such heartbreaking material with a narrative that's so much fun -- Claire Lowdon ― Sunday Times
Deft, dazzling, many-layered, highly detailed and emotionally absorbing . . . [Bennett] unpicks the terrible, wonderful, inescapable threads that bind sisters across time, place and lies, and does so with poise, grace and breathtaking prose. A beautiful, important and timely book -- Ella Walker ― Scotsman
A must-read . . . A tender story about race, family and identity ― Best
Fluent and openhearted . . . In a style as easy and candid as a detective story, Bennett scatters clues for us to gather just as, crucially, the twins' contrasting daughters, Jude and Kennedy, piece together fragments of their painful heritage -- Maria Crawford ― Financial Times
Bennett explores the multiple ways in which race and gender can be authentic, permeable and socially constructed all at
once, without ever passing judgment on her characters. Combining a mythic structure with emotionally rich social realism, this is a truly excellent novel
Bennett's second novel is an expertly plotted and empathetic exploration of race, identity and colourism in the tradition of Toni Morrison. ― Guardian
Bennett's wonderful novel tackles race and identity in the US, as the Vignes twins, Desiree and Stella, who choose very different paths through life ― The i
The omniscient authorial voice is gentle and compassionate in a tale that inverts and confounds expectations . . . cleverly
constructed to both match and critique the conservativism of the 1950s and 60s : the attenuated tone chimes with the restrained language and style of the period. Ultimately, it's a quietly damning account of acquiescing to an imitation of life and the delusion of the American dream
It's intensely emotional and gorgeously written, with timely insights into the poison of racism ― Sunday Mirror
Beautifully written ― Bella
Epic and unforgettable ― Hello!
A triumph of empathetic storytelling . . . A terrific novel -- Claire Allfree ― Daily Mail
An absorbing read that stays with you long after you've closed its pages ― Herald
Bennett has been described as a successor to the likes of Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston, and The Vanishing Half promises an absorbing exploration of race, family and the American history of "passing" -- Refinery29
A gorgeously rich, sweeping saga ― Evening Standard
A thought-provoking read about identity and gender -- Zoe West ― Women's Weekly
The intricacies of identity, of "shadeism" between differently skin-toned African-Americans, of white privilege are skilfully
pursued in this poignant and clever multigenerational saga about race in America
Bennett imbues her characters with immense heart, and does a great job of depicting their lives through the years. Even better, she works hard to draw resonances throughout her thoughtful and compassionate tale, looking at the dubious history of the Vignes girls' lineage, as well as the difficulties and struggles of their children as they stride forward into the world.
There is a simple lyrical quality to Bennett's prose that evokes an entire place and time in just a few well-balanced sentences, and the way she treats all her characters with respect and care makes The Vanishing Half an engaging and thought-provoking read on every level
Arguably the book of the summer, Bennett's second novel is a page-turning saga of race and family ― The i
Bennett tells the story of the girls' diverging trajectories in rich, elegant prose; you can literally swirl the words in your mouth ― Evening Standard
I loved how Bennett explores the concepts of belonging and family ― Cosmopolitan
Moving back and forth over three decades, and the course of an intricately detailed plot, Bennett's superb novel takes the issue of race as the starting point for a deep exploration of identity ― Financial Times
One of the most engaging books of the year ― The i
Old-fashioned epic meets modern identity politics in this excellent novel about the mixed fortunes of light-skinned black twins born in 1950s Louisiana ― Telegraph
A stunning family saga about passing for white and the hollowness of the American dream that won her comparisons to Toni Morrison ― Guardian
It has the ideal mix of social commentary and a pacy plot - I tore through it in a couple of days ― The i
The year's most addictive novel ― Metro
I loved Bennett's rich elegant prose ― Evening Standard
Mesmerising . . . the powerful plot twists in the novel, which concludes in 1986, will keep you gripped until the
An engrossing, provocative read exploring themes of family, relationships and race -- Books of the Year ― Express
This book has everything: enticing plot, memorable characters and beautiful, melodic writing -- Books of the Year ― Prima
Beautifully written and unputdownable. Bennett is a major force in American literature and I cannot get enough of her storytelling. -- Mel Giedroyc
I knew very little about the American history of 'passing' and this novel opened my eyes to its heartbreaking complexities whilst exploring the intricate notion of identity and life sacrifices -- Ruth Jones --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B082KH5D4M
- Publisher : Dialogue Books (2 June 2020)
- Language : English
- File size : 1724 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 482 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0593286103
- Best Sellers Rank: 2,314 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from Australia
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The characters were vividly drawn with story lines that spanned across decades so that I felt like I had come to intimately know these characters and the shapes of their lives by the end. Through the characters of the twin girls we see themes of loss, identity, race, society, survival and motherhood play out and I love how the book tackles these bigger themes without detracting from the core story of the girls' disappearance and separation.
The writing was stunning in that quiet, unassuming way, balancing descriptive prose with a grounded realism, "A town always looked different once you returned, like a house where all the furniture had shifted three inches. You wouldn't mistake it for a stranger's house but you'd keep banging your shins on the table corners"
I couldn't put this book down but I also didn't want it to end, and I wished the story had continued to the next generation of daughters because it is a story that I could keep reading.
However, far too much of the writing is banal and repetitive. Too much of the novel is static.
All novels are fabrications, of course; however, the concoctedness of Vanishing Half leaps out at the reader and spoils it. For me at least.
Top reviews from other countries
Every great novel should force you out of your comfort zone, introduce you to new worlds and make you pause to think and assess. The Vanishing Half manages this, it feels, with ease. Brit Bennett achieved this with The Mothers too (which I also loved and is a MUST-read), but here the cast, the setting and the timeline are even more expansive. Thus the skill on display, even more impressive.
This is a novel that weaves the themes of history, memory and identity. It encourages us to put aside simplified notions of racial dynamics, and as a mixed-race woman, I found myself deeply interrogating my own thoughts, beliefs and experiences. This is not, though, only a novel about race and it would be disingenuous to believe so. This is a journey through family ties, belonging and loss; of individuals, couples, communities. Seamlessly bringing together these myriad threads is the sign of a masterful writer.
Brit writes with unpretentious flair, in a way that envelopes you softly, almost as though you're hearing your mum telling you the story as her mum told it to her. No word is wasted, no sentence is filler, no dialogue is superfluous. Everything serves its purpose exquisitely and is imbibed with feeling.
This novel spans the full emotional spectrum, it brought me moments of sadness, anger, and tender delight, all of which I am truly grateful for. I needed this novel right now - and I believe many of us do. Please, do not hesitate to purchase this book.
This had not prevented whites from a neighbouring town from lynching their father for an imagined racial transgression.
In 1964 Desiree and Stella ran way to St Louis. But they soon went their separate ways. Stella, traumatized by having seen her father lynched, had decided to pass as white. She had taken a job in St Louis. Her employer, a wealthy white banker called Blake Sanders had taken a liking to her, and she to him; and when he was moved to Boston and asked her to go with him, she had agreed, and had simply walked out on Desiree without telling her where she had gone. There she married him and bore him a white daughter, Kennedy. Neither Blake nor Kennedy knew that she was not white. Later they moved to Los Angeles.
For years Stella had no contact with Desiree. She was always terrified that she would be found out, and avoided any contact with black people. The exception was her friendship for a while with Loretta Walker, a black woman who lived in the house opposite hers; but this ended when Kennedy, playing with Loretta’s daughter Cindy, made a racist comment to Cindy.
Desiree had gone to Washington D.C, and married a black man, Sam Winston, and bore him a black daughter, Jude. But Sam was violent towards Desiree, and she and Jude left him and returned to Mallard in 1968.
In 1982 Jude was living in Los Angeles with Reese Carter, a transgender man with whom, sharing his bed, she has an affaire of sorts, and with Barry, who performs as a drag queen twice a month. Reese and Barry, like Stella, were passing for something they were not.
One day, Jude thought she had seen Stella, the lookalike of her mother; and she also met Kennedy.
Kennedy had become a rebel, had dropped out school, and against her mother’s wishes, had taken up acting in a crummy play in a crummy theatre. Jude took a job as a dogsbody at the theatre in order to see more of her cousin and in the hope of meeting Stella. On the last night of the show she did meet Stella, and introduced herself to her as Desiree’s daughter. Stella froze, then walked away. Angrily, Jude told Kennedy that their mothers were twins, and that Stella had been lying to Kennedy all her life.
The secret was out: Stella knew she had been rumbled, and Kennedy knew the truth.
I found the remaining quarter of the book, dealing in part with the consequences of this situation, very confusing. Hence only three stars, when so much of the book deserves five.