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The Den picks out the Short Listed Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 ‘The Vanishing Half’. A story of race, gender and identity, this is a pacy and topical ‘of the moment’ novel - offering plenty of discussion for book clubs this autumn.

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Den scores




366 pages

‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett is one of the Short Listed Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 that provides historical escapism and topical ‘of the moment’ discussion for book clubs this autumn. With the winner announced this month, and plenty of praise for Bennett’s work, the Den picked this one out as a worthwhile read - opening minds and opinion on racial prejudices and identity.

‘The Vanishing Half’ revolves around a fictional small town, Mallard in Louisiana, which we quickly learn was a community set up by a freed slave Alphonse Decuir in the late 19th century. Fast forward to 1969 and the novel opens with return of one of ‘The Lost Twins’ Desiree Vignes who scandalously left the tight-knit community at sixteen with her sister Stella.

Desiree returns not with her now estranged twin but with her daughter, a ‘Blueback’, ‘like she flown direct from Africa’. This immediately stirs up the town and the reader and whilst Desiree is keen to find her twin sister, Stella has moved on, preferring to pass as ‘white’ amongst her new family and friends in California. But fate brings them back together whether they want it or not.

On the surface ‘The Vanishing Half’ presents the historical prejudices of race and colour in the black communities of America. But as the story unfolds the reader discovers the novel is more about identity and human instinct and the natural desire to be free spirits outside of the family unit and the communities into which we are born. ‘The Vanishing Half’ is a page turner that is pacy with plenty of unexpected and imaginative twists provoking and challenging opinion.

This is a story of race, gender and identity so there is plenty to unpick and share - and with an HBO deal already secured this is a novel you will want to read in your book club.

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