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The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

Longlisted for the National Book Award

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 2019

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.

Praise for Brit Bennett:

‘A writer to watch’ Washington Post

‘Bennett allows her characters to follow their worst impulses, and she handles provocative issues with intelligence, empathy and dark humour’ New York Times

‘A beautifully written, sad and lingering book’ Guardian on The Mothers
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Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Modern & Contemporary Fiction (post C 1945)

On Sale: 2nd June 2020

Price: £14.99

ISBN-13: 9780349701448

Reviews

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
Claire Allfree, Daily Mail
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
Colin Grant, Observer
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
The Times
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
Big Issue
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
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
A powerful, tender family epic which reminds us directly and poignantly that things are not black and white
Louisa Young
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
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
A novel of immense, shining, powerful intelligence
Deborah Levy
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 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
Brit Bennett is a tremendous talent
Imbolo Mbue
A potent, generous, and masterful novel. Bennett is a humane and supple story-teller we are lucky to have
Olivia Sudjic
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
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
Independent
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
Bennett's gorgeously written second novel, an ambitious meditation on race and identity, considers the divergent fates of twin sisters, born in the Jim Crow South, after one decides to pass for white. Bennett balances the literary demands of dynamic characterization with the historical and social realities of her subject matter
New York Times
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
As thought-provoking as it is engrossing
Oprah magazine
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
Stunning . . . seamless and suspenseful . . . engrossing and surprisingly apolitical . . . The result is a novel that reads effortlessly . . . There is tremendous, timeless wisdom here
AV Club
The Vanishing Half is an immersive story about family, identity and belonging
Red
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