Friday 14 August 2020

Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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 passingLooking 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.

Review: This book took me a little while to get into. There is a lot of early information to take on and a lot of characters to get into your head right at the beginning. Once I was into this book though I did find myself invested in the story and swept up in what was going to happen with this family. 

The setting on the origin of this book is just so interesting and something that I believe could actually exist in today’s society. Mallard, Louisiana was conceived of by the twins great-great-great grandfather as an exclusive place for light-skinned blacks like him. It is so interesting the way the town leads to different directions for Desiree and Stella. One deciding to embrace their heritage and pass as white and the other breaking ties with those values in a different way. 

Then we have the characters. Once I got to know them and work out who was who as we moved back forth through time Desiree, Loretta, Jude, Reese really got me and I felt like I really cared about them as people. Stella was a really interesting character and I felt drawn to her side of the story much more than Desiree.  I did feel angry and frustrated with Stella, I also, feel very sad for her and the fact that her choices led to so much pain for herself and others. I also really loved the way we got to know the twins through their daughters and their relationships with one another. 

This structure definitely takes a little getting used to. I listened to this on audiobook and I think perhaps if I had had the physical book I would have been able to flick back and forth and keep track of the characters easier initially. Whilst the audiobook was well narrated I would probably recommend the physical copy more because I think it would have made for a quicker start to the story for me. I do enjoy how this challenged my views and challenged my reading and I wouldn’t rule out reading more from this author in the future. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

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