THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett

From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

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’ storylines 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.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise. 


Title : The Vanishing Half
Author : Brit Bennett
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 343
Genre : Literary Fiction
Publisher : Dialogue Books
Release Date : June 25, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

A powerful read that was a little slow to get going but hard to put down pretty quickly. This was a story told across generations, with different characters at the fore at different times. Reading the blurb, I thought this was just about the twin sisters, Desiree and Stella and while all the stories branch out from them, there were other characters at the fore at different times. The other characters in the story were such a rich tapestry of interest to me.

I found it took me a good few chapters to get into THE VANISHING HALF but once I had a feel for Mallard, the sisters and their life, I was on board. Initially, my focus was all on Desiree as she seemed to be the brave and bold one, with Stella being quiet. Stella later blew my expectations out of the water, bringing a difficult to read narrative but also one so powerful. I struggled with the thoughts of should I or shouldn’t I empathsise with her situation but as a white woman, how could I possibly judge her? The life she chose for herself was still hard, I cannot imagine a life of such secrecy.

The sisters’ story gave way to their progeny and the characters that stole the show were Jude and Reece. Their story had an evolving beauty that swept across the page, totally absorbed me and made me long for their success and good outcomes. Early was another character that I really loved, the way he subtly emerged into the story, with kindness, was everything. I didn’t particularly like Kennedy but she had a important part to play.

This was an epic story, grand over time and impressionable to readers. It left a melancholy feeling for me at the end but I was completely satisfied with the conclusion. It has a message for contemporary times, I read this thinking, how much has actually changed with regards to some attitutdes? The writing was powerful and I am going to seek out Brit Bennett’s other book immediately.

Thank you to Dialogue Books and Tandem Collective for this gifted copy.

THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested. 


Title : The Dutch House
Author : Ann Patchett
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 352
Genre : Literary Fiction
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date :

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

THE DUTCH HOUSE was an epic family saga told over decades, detailing the level to which a family can be messed up. There was nothing predictable about this tale and overall the tone of the story was pretty sad and depressing. However, it was rich in characterisation and description.

The story was told from the POV of Danny, at first a young boy, at the end in his fifties. Alongside, his sister Maeve, they navigated traumatic family events that initially revolved around their house (The Dutch House) and later away from the house. There was an amazing cast of side characters, my favourites of whom were Dr Able, Fluffy and Andrea (who doesn’t love a Cruella de Ville character).

I spent various points in this book incensed on behalf of Maeve and Danny. Danny had all the potential as a young man to turn out differently from his father but as the book progressed, I did feel he became something of a self-centred cold fish and he definitely had shades of his father. I adored Maeve as a character, she was the rudder to this story and many of her story lines just plain hurt.

It sounded so nostalgic when he said it, the three of us, as if we had once been a unit instead of just a circumstance.

The return of Elna to the story was not welcome to me and I just knew that she wasn’t going to be great news despite the understandable glee of Maeve. The wrap up to Andrea was a little disappointing as well; these mothers were just awful.

I am left reflecting on how much this book made me feel and how involved I became with this family despite my middling rating. I would definitely read Ann Patchett again because she creates such characters that you cannot help but get swept up by them.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and Tandem Collective for the review copy.

THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.


Title : The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author : Samantha Shannon
Format : Paperback/Audio
Page Count : 804
Genre : High Fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury
Release Date : February 26, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

There is so much to this book as you would imagine by the size, so much I could talk about, wax lyrical about but I’ll have to just focus in on some areas. This review is going to be more about contexts, themes and feelings rather than storyline. I wouldn’t know where to start to explain the story to you…I guess you’ll just have to read it.

If you are looking for a feminist read, this is the one for you. The characters and storyline are empowering from a feminist perspective without belittling men. However, women as leaders was a theme portrayed throughout this fantastical world and the characters of Ead, Tane and Sabran absolutely sold the show. Ead most of all was the star, quietly rising to might and yet selfless. Sabran was a character that had to grow on me and she did. I loved the connection between Tane and her companion sea dragon Nayimathun, I lived for their parts.

There were some great themes in relation to the validation or not of women through their ability to bear a child, I really appreciated that context and I’d like to see it more in literature. The romantic connections in this book were varied and there was a strong sapphic story to be told at the heart of this tale.

The story was told mainly in East and West chapters where, as a reader, you really gain a sense of the different cultures and beliefs. I came to favour one side over the other and then it all got thrown into the air. See the dragon on the front? Of course you did, but there are good and bad draconic creatures in this book, some referred to as wyrms and it took some reading to really find my way with which was which.

Like many people, I had a little trepidation about a large read like this but I was asked to join in a readalong and quickly got swept up. I would advise some intense reading for the first hundred pages or so and then you’ll find your way with the story and characters. Also do not miss the three sections at the back ‘persons of the tale’, ‘timeline’ and ‘glossary’. The persons of the tale was invaluable for me for the first few hundred pages, I referred to it numerous times. Go read this, it was an epic tale, truly enjoyable and one to remember.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for the review copy and to Tandem Collective for organising the readalong.