The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett book review

The Vanishing Half was the number one most-voted-for book when I held a poll recently asking people which book I should read from my physical TBR list. After a quick google, I realised I wasn’t quite sure what it was I was about to read about. And around 300 pages later, I’m still not 100% sure if I really get what the book was trying to portray.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett book review

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The Vanishing Half focuses on the lives of twins Desiree and Stella and their two children, Kennedy and Jude. Desiree and Stella leave their small town as light-skinned black girls at a young age and decide to go on their own paths through life. The book tells their differing stories and their children’s lives as a result.

The Vanishing Half plot – 4/5

The Vanishing Half attempts to tell the story over 30 years of two separate generations. Desiree and Stella are the first generations who are sick of living in Mallard, their home town and decide to move elsewhere to find a better life for themselves. Stella moves to Brentwood, Lose Angeles and attempts to live the life of a white woman, marrying a white man and living in a white-dominated town. When a black couple moves into the town she begins to worry they may find out she’s not as white as she puts on. Stella’s whole story is about her trying to live the life of a rich white woman.

Desiree on the other hand moves away, gets pregnant with an abusive man and decides to move back to Mallard to be with her mother after realising it didn’t work out. This then creates a divide where one sister is living the middle-class white American dream and the other has gone back to live the life they’d always have lived.

It’s an interesting concept and I’ve always wanted to read a story where two siblings make very different stories of their lives.

I’ll admit, when trying to decide how much I actually liked this book’s plot, I was swaying between a three and a four – I understood its intentions; I knew exactly what Brit Bennett was trying to show and portray here which she does very well. However, not a lot of actual action or life-changing moments happen that make this a swooping plotline, so I can’t rate it too highly.

I must note that the way the book is written is slightly odd. There’ll be random jumping around of time. One minute you’ll be reading about Desiree as a child, the next you’ll be in a scene of her as an adult without so much as a proper paragraph break. It was slightly disjointed but something that lessened further on in the boom and also became easier to understand.

The Vanishing Half characters – 4/5

A lot of Brit Bennett’s writing in The Vanishing Half is quite passive. You spend a lot of time as the reader reading the thoughts of the characters rather than them engaging in a lot of dialogue. Therefore, it’s hard to define how interesting Desiree, Stella, Jude or Kennedy are.

What is well done is Bennett’s ability to define the different characters by the way they act, speak and the choices they make. Kennedy, Stella’s daughter is slightly rude, she’s stuck-up and has grown up with a certain level of expectation which understandably makes her rebel against her parents. Jude has grown up in a humble environment and so is far kinder and has less expectancy of others.

It’s an interesting dynamic that makes The Vanishing Half feel like a really mature book.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet overall rating – 4/5

I knew exactly what The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was trying to do, I just simply wasn’t that into it. I get the message and its intentions, I appreciate the mature characters and I can sit back and say I’m glad I read it. However, it just wasn’t a book that blew me away like many people said it would. It’s a book I wanted to like more than I did but the lack of an exciting plot, the briefness of it and the lack of any real sense of start, middle and end left me feeling like I wanted just a bit more.

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