As with a former reviewer I came to this book via one of Ms Buck's other works: Abiding Evil
. That volume was an exciting horror story: memorable, terrifying, mesmeric and beautifully written. Having enjoyed it so much I had high hopes for this. I wasn't disappointed.
Devoted Sisters starts from an extremely simple premise: the lives of two elderly sisters are broken out decades of routine by the arrival of a stranger. There have been many stories of this sort across centuries of literature. However, to think that you will be getting a twice told tale, when picking up this novel, would be wrong. In the hands of Ms Buck while the premise maybe simple the execution and the exquisite layering of nuance and import, in the development of the character and meaning, is anything but.
As the narrative develops, Ms Buck takes us back and forth across seemingly well trod ground, only to show that what the eponymous Sisters and we the readers have taken as reality, turns out to be a tapestry of fictions, half truths and self taught lies.
With an almost forensic delight in the exploration of pertinent details, we are given the opportunity to explore past moments, where the discontinuity between what the Sisters tell themselves, each other and us becomes ever more apparent. And therein lies the heart of this novel: the difference between truth and the desire to believe an easier and more comfortable lie.
In layer after successive layer we are drawn away from comfort and into truth. Truth can, often is, painful, but that is its power and the power that drives Devoted Sisters and by which it earns the right to the consequence of tell these truths. It should be noted that Ms Buck harnesses this power with writing which is both delicate and, in odd moments, searing. She has a rare gift for balancing the needs of a story, clever pacing allows her the space to mix emotional insight with descriptive prowess and give both dramatic weight.
In the final analysis Devoted Sisters is a tremendous achievement and deserves a wide and devoted readership. Another fine novel by Alison Buck. The woman is a writer of real and memorable talent.