Double V

Author: Ulonati, Laura

Publication Date:

January 2023



Original language and publisher

French | Actes Sud

Territories Handled

Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia


Literary Fiction


  • Prix des Romancières 2023 (longlisted)

Double V

Author: Ulonati, Laura


How not to capsize in front of such poetry? Laura Ulonati did not write one novel, she wrote a hundred. Her book is an elegy, a tragedy, a sublime and cruel tableau of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. […] The particularity of the book is due to its organic writing and its audacity […] Double V is the fictionalised story of their life, their family, their marriages, a duality made up of envy and jealousy, madness and despair, but above all art. — Le Figaro Littéraire

After two first novels haunted by exile, Laura Ulonati blurs the boundaries of narration, mixing historical fiction and autobiographical vertigo. […] Through this mise en abyme, the story of the founders of the Bloomsbury Group, which made the heart of artistic London beat at the beginning of the 20th century, becomes the emblem of the passionate relationships between sisters in a world saturated by male domination. – Le Monde des Livres

In a novel, Double V, the narrative alternates with the interior monologue, Laura Ulonati retraces the crossed destinies of the Stephen sisters better known as Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. […] A poetic prose, full of assonances. – Transfuge

A novel that tells the life of Vanessa Bell and where we meet on each page her double, her younger sister, Virginia Woolf. – Europe 1, Historiquement vôtre

A very unique literary enterprise. – Patrick Boucheron, France Inter – Histoire de

A mise en abyme of women who write about other women, with a lot of tenderness, a lot of light. […] For the author, through the voice of the narrator, it is a question of “repairing amnesiac history”, that is to say, of stitching up a historical fabric that has been torn and in particular on the side of the women. And therefore give voice to these women, truly embody them. – Ludivine Bantigny, France Inter – Histoire de

You know the writer Virginia Woolf but certainly not her sister Vanessa who was a painter. They are at the heart of Laura Ulonati’s book. – Florent Loiseau, France 3

Duality, jealousy, the need to sacrifice sisterhood on the altar of glory: so many themes explored with an intoxicating poetic breath in Laura Ulonati’s new novel. Through the play of people, through the polyphony she puts in place, through the irruption of poetry and a myriad of allusions to the novels of the English author, Laura Ulonati composes a story with powerful musicality. A whirlwind of sensations, intimate movements and back and forth between his characters and his autobiography. – Nicolas Julliard, RTS – Qwertz

One embodied literature. The other was a little-known painter.

Vanessa Bell grew up in the emaciated but already dizzying shadow of Virginia Woolf, who was her younger sister but nevertheless came to surpass her in terms of grandeur, eloquence and the esteem of others. The problem is that Vanessa, diaphanous in her melancholy like her mother, carries the expectations of the eldest on her shoulders, whereas Virginia is free to explore the sacrosanct library of her father, who passes everything on to her. The privilege of the beloved last-born.

But in this book it is the voices of the big sisters that we hear. They share with us the little machinations of childhood that sometimes turn into concerted plotting of adulthood: they end up detesting this pampered little sister. The sisters divide their time between Cornwall, London and Paris, Bloomsbury and Beaubourg, the distance between them increasing or diminishing according to shifting moods, sorrows and spells of happiness.

Unlike a conventional (auto)biography, this book employs a double ‘I’ to weave together the complex, painful and even tortured bonds that united two sisters. One was the missing part of the other: ‘The negative of my sister, whom I would like to love and whom I should protect, but whose head I plunge into the bathtub.’ The fabric of the page, embroidered with Vanessa’s memories, rages and regrets, is interwoven with the voice of the novelist Laura Ulonati, who, in a strange process of emotional transference, becomes the echo chamber for the experiences of the painter. Choosing art so as not to disappear, and to stop erasing oneself.

In a delicate balancing act, the author places herself at Vanessa’s side, becoming her accomplice as she appropriates her words and thoughts to create a mirror image of her subject – a sort of altarpiece whose panels reveal a woman of multiple facets, elusive and mysterious. The overlapping reflections of the two Vs forever interfere with each other and merge, the symbol itself evoking vanishing points that come together at the point of sisterhood.