Over the recent months, reading has been integral to providing people with a means of escape. We have partnered with The Reading Agency to support six UK-based reading groups whose members have benefited from coming together to discuss books and stay connected during a time where we all must adapt to ever-changing circumstances.

We are thrilled to share a review from one of our selected reading groups, The Brummie Literary and Custard Society, who have read Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half. The book group provides many of the members with a much-needed work-life balance. THEY COMMENTED IN THEIR APPLICATION … After receiving their copies of The Vanishing Half, the group finally had the opportunity to meet in person (as restrictions eased) for the first time in two years!

Overall, the group thoroughly enjoyed The Vanishing Half. When scoring, everyone gave it a score of 9 (or higher) out of 10! Their enthusiastic discussion built on each other’s opinions and although there was a slight disagreement about the ending, they noted that everyone has different preferences in terms of the way things are tied up. Read on to find out what the group thought about their allocated book (some possible spoilers ahead).

‘We all loved this fantastic book, it led to our latest finishing ever meeting, we were talking until well after it got dark outside! The premise of the book was an excellent one when considering how the issue of racial identity affects a person’s prospects in life. The genetically identical twins, Desiree and Stella are treated differently by society. As a result, they follow different paths and adopt different lifestyles and the injustice of this is clear. Just the word “passing” to describe a black person assuming the identity of a white person struck me, with its connotations of death (as Stella had to cut all ties with her past to pass as white) and success (as if she has passed a test and gained a qualification of sorts).’

‘It is very easy to get lost in The Vanishing Half. The book has an effortless flow and rhythm to it that makes you want to devour it in a few greedy sittings. However, the ease with which one reads this book should not mean it should be dismissed as an “easy read”. Rather, this novel has a depth and a complexity to it which meant that our Book Group discussion started in bright sunshine and ended in the shivering dark. Characters, even those who behave with a moral dubiousness, are drawn sympathetically so that the reader feels emotionally engaged with each aspect of the story. In this way, we are reminded that, while the book appears to focus on those aspects of identity which divide us, what it illustrates is that, ultimately we share a common humanity.’

We hope you enjoyed reading The Brummie Literary and Custard Society’s thoughts on The Vanishing Half. You can pick up a copy of Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half as well as the other five shortlisted books from bookshop.org here>

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