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Publisher's Summary

Sunday Times best seller.

Longlisted for the Women's Prize 2021.

Longlisted for the National Book Award.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, Southern black community and running away at age 16, 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.

©2020 Brit Bennett (P)2020 Hachette Audio UK

Critic Reviews

"A writer to watch." (Washington Post)

"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)

"Bennett allows her characters to follow their worst impulses, and she handles provocative issues with intelligence, empathy and dark humour." (New York Times )

What listeners say about The Vanishing Half

Average Customer Ratings
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A vivid story

This novel was picked by my bookclub, I'm not sure I would have chosen it myself as the story seemed a little fantastical. That would have been a shame because this is a wonderful novel, such a vivid story that drew me in. Brit Bennett's writing is completely compelling. I listened to it at 1.5x speed which I haven't done before, but I found the narration a little slow.

2 people found this helpful

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A captivating story

I enjoyed this book. Just finished it. I wanted to leave a good review and here it is.

1 person found this helpful

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My favourite book of 2020

What a beautiful book. The story fascinating, the characters so vivid and the writing amazing. Please read it everyone.

1 person found this helpful

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Slow to start but very engaging once you get in

Has a hard time with the book initially but once more characters and lives are developed I finished in no time and felt it was really worth it! Lovely story, interesting characters and concepts

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent story

Being a twin myself I was intrigued by this book. Sad that the twins went their separate ways and had completely different lives. Interesting to see how bad racism was between black people. The characters were interesting and beautifully rounded.

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Not engaging

I couldn’t engage with the story and gave up after 2 or 3 hours of listening

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Wonderful.

A wonderful dramatic story and an even better narration. Well worth a listen . Highly recommended.

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I want more!

A good story with interesting main themes and characters however, the ending felt more like the halfway mark. The book could do with a deeper exploration of most of the characters as well as their jouneys, both physical and emotional. An enjoyable read with an interesting and creative storyline that left me wanting more.

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Unpredictable right till tbe end

So many interesting characters with a plot which moves at a pace which felt just right.

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Feel like I missed something

There have been a lot of great reviews about this book but having just finished I feel like I must have missed something. The story didn't flow well and went in too many directions. Instead of the focus being on the sisters, a lot of the book is about other family members with the sisters almost secondary characters. The ending is a bit weird & abrupt. Found the narrator was annoying at times, especially when reading male characters. Feel disappointed.

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  • parve
  • 16-03-2021

Poignant

The statement that stood out for me..to be white is to be able to choose. Spoke to so many issues about privilege and how it differentiates us all. Sometimes we are searching even if we don’t know that we are..a restlessness can carry across generations..so much depth too about how the words around us; spoken and unspoken can impact our life journeys. I grew to love the book..so glad I read it!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-01-2021

Loved it

I enjoyed the narrator very much. The story was great. I gasped a few times especially the encounters between the twins' daughters and between Jude and Stella.

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  • verity
  • 30-10-2020

a good tale, well read

a different story, creative and vast. a deeper message about life and progression embedded in tale that's interesting even on its own. narrator's voice felt a little grating at first but soon enough became easy to listen to.

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  • Chantal V
  • 05-07-2020

Excellent Read

Captivating story and eloquently read by voice artist. Imagery easily painted in the reader’s mind

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  • Janice Birnie
  • 14-06-2020

A superbly written and narrated novel.

The Vanishing Half is one of the most thought provoking novels I’ve listened to in a very long time. At this point in history I think it’s a must read/listen. It is a beautifully written story that left this reader deeply moved. It is at times heartbreaking, but it also leaves you hopeful given the strength and resilience of its characters. This story will stay with me always.
The narration was superb.
Highly recommended

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 23-06-2020

An Important Read

Where to begin with this book? There are so many angles and themes that you could take this from... It has an intriguing opening - a bit like a 'what if' scenario - an unmarked town full of light skinned people who think of themselves as superior to other black people. Then a set of twins, who slip off into the night one summer, leaving no trace. Only for one twin to return as suddenly as she left, followed by a little dark skinned girl...

The multi-generational story really dives into the details of prejudice, systemic racism and most importantly, the often overlooked issue of colorism. It also looks at families, contains complex mother-daughter relationships and in a very understated way also looks at the effect of broken homes and the importance of the father.

The story is fictional but is plotted against important historic events in American history. This framing means that it is realistic, but with a slight displacement that stops it feeling as raw or uncomfortable as some may otherwise have found it. This is with the exception of one violent scene that really saddened me but even this (like most of the harsher scenes in the book) was softened around the edges by being recalled as a memory . It also makes unfamiliar topics completely accessible to anyone through quality story telling (there are two in particular that I have in mind, one is colorism but I don't want to spoil the second for anyone else).

Pacing wise, I found it occasionally a bit slow for my liking, especially towards the end, but there was great tension. If you are the type who likes explosive scenes then you will not find much joy here. The storyline doesn't really carry a shock factor in terms of twists and turns but it certainly takes you by the hand and really makes you think and reflect and savour the range of emotion it induces - it uses your own understandings about family to penetrate your depths.

This is a book that demands attention - I listened to this on Audible and there are several time jumps that are woven together masterfully - you cannot skim read or listen while half concentrated on something else. If your mind wanders for a second, you will find yourself lost. It is worth every drop of your attention though. The reader did a great job too. I usually have to have the ebook in front of me whilst I read or I lose focus but I found myself engaged even though I didn't get the ebook this time.

The ending was satisfying and unhurried too. It was realistic - not so neat and perfect that it felt silly but it still felt complete. I would highly recommend this book, whichever format you choose to read it in.

18 people found this helpful

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  • emily uk
  • 31-08-2020

Great booked ruined by narrator

This is SUCH a good story, but the narration kills it I'm afraid.
I'm going to buy a physical copy to read and cleanse my brain of the irritation, because every time I think of the story or hear the author's name or the book title, I feel tense. The whole way through listening I felt tense. Couldn't fully relax end enjoy it.
This is an important book, as well as being a terrific story. It deserves much better.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Sigrin
  • 24-09-2020

Powerful story written with a tenderness.

I Chose this books on the reviews and it certainly lived up to it high star rating. The summary tells everything you need to know about the book, so I will not bore you with a repetition.

The story needs your complete attention as there is so many small details that are important and make the whole a sum if it’s parts. The exploration of black and white, mother daughter relationship, living in isolation, rich and poor, growing up in a fatherless house are beautiful and sensitively told but also in a no holds bare way too.

My only criticism of this book is the narrator. Personally I have never been a fan of American narrators and unfortunately Shyna Small just did not deliver this book in a way that I really could connect with it. It was almost that she was trying too hard. Personally I would suggest the exceptional voice of Bahni Turpin to narrate.

Despite the criticism as it’s a personal thing, I would highly recommend this book.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Sarah Rayner
  • 04-08-2020

Beautifully written and brilliantly read

This is a stunning novel. The blurb details the premise but narrative is more sweeping and ambitious than it suggests: the author - and narrator - deftly switch characters and across timelines to explore big subjects (race, what makes us who we are, family ties and lost connections and gender). It’s especially prescient in the wake of BLM (but given the speed of the publishing industry must have been written long before the current movement to be out now). One of my favourite books on audio so far. Do listen - it’s a real ‘grower’ and I resoundingly recommend it.

5 people found this helpful

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  • KK
  • 02-08-2020

Had potential but never achieved it

enjoyed the premise of this story very much and it held alot of promise, but unfortunately it did not deliver for me. the start was great, alot of background information and developing of the story, but then midway through for me it lost it's way and never came back. I found the jumping around in years to different characters storyline confusing and hard to follow and I think this spoiled the usual enjoyment of the build up to the end. when the end came it was too quick and left a lot of loose ends. I felt quite let down, it didn't really tie anything up and I think the rushed ending meant that some of the story felt unbelievable. It was a shame as I think the story had a lot of potential.

3 people found this helpful

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  • V. O'Regan
  • 12-06-2020

A powerful story

This was an excellent novel that explored some sensitive issues in an open way. All round excellent

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anita L.
  • 04-12-2020

compulsive

I couldn't put it down, is my only complaint! I read it for book club, we all loved it!

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stephen
  • 08-04-2021

Are we born or do we create ourselves?

This is a masterful literary journey into the question of whether we're born, or whether we create ourselves. This big question is explored through a cast of fascinating flawed characters in a multilayered and compulsive story about light skinned African American twins who take very different life paths. A masterpiece.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-04-2021

Story of two halves

I enjoyed this story it took a good few chapters for me to get into it. Overall well written and loving in parts. Definitely one to listen to.

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  • Sally
  • 05-04-2021

Compelling & enjoyable but didn’t know how to end

I really enjoyed listening to this story and kept wanting to keep going even when I had other things to do! But I felt surprised by the ending as it didn’t really end - it was like it just stopped. Maybe a snapshot of lives just does this, but I was slightly disappointed after what had been otherwise a great book.

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