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Sisters By A River: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) [Paperback]

Barbara Comyns , Barbara Trapido
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Dec 2000 VMC (Book 314)

Mammy had her excape in her imaginary lovers, we children did not have much excape in the winter, but when the summer came there was the sun and river, some mornings I would get up at five and row up the river before anyone else had been on it, and the larks would be singing and the cows standing together in the little bays where the water was shallow, and everything would seem so good and clean, I felt I wanted to cry with so much hapiness'

The first of Barbara Comyns's eight novels, SISTERS BY A RIVER is told through the eyes (and spelling) of a young girl. Vivid, funny and quite unique, it evokes the author's own extraordinary childhood.

Some of the whimsical chapters: The Roly Poly Field, God in the Billiard Room, The Maids' Lav, It Wasn't Nice in the Dressing Room, As If She Had No Ears at All, The Field that Was Stiff with Skeletons, Gather Your Hats While You May, Aunts Arriving.



Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (7 Dec 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 086068475X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860684756
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,015,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

The characters seem to exist in a perpetual Mad Hatter's tea-party (KATE SAUNDERS)

An off-beat humour (GRAHAM GREENE)

All of her books read as if she wrote them effortlessly (URSULA HOLDEN)

Book Description

*a childhood memoir with all the appeal of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll

*for fans of Stevie Smith


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IT was in the middle of a snowstorm I was born, Palmer's brother's wedding night, Palmer went to the wedding and got snowbound, and when he arrived very late in the morning he had to bury my packing under the wallnut tree, he always had to do this when we were born-six times in all, and none of us died, Mary said Granny used to give us manna to eat and that's why we didn't, but manna is stuff in the bible, perhaps they have it in places like Fortnham & Mason, but I've never seen it, or maybe Jews shops. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Humour and horror juxtapose' 18 Dec 2011
By sally tarbox TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Lovely book, that can only be described as the literary form of naive art! Comyns recounts episodes from her childhood, brought up in a genteel if debt-laden family. It put me in mind of Nancy Mitford's account of her own family. Irascible Daddy, vague, deaf Mammy, and six children who for want of outside company spend much time together.
Comyns writes in a unique child-like style, with eccentric spelling and an antipathy to semi-colons, so that phrases run into each other:

'Mammy had always looked and been rather vague, she had a kind of gypsoflia mind, all little bits and pieces held together by whisps' (sic)

Far from being a sentimental account, Comyns recalls the horrific alongside the magical- villagers drowning in the floods; her father's violence; ill-treatment of animals.
I LOVE Comyns' work !
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars sisters by a river 2 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For fans only, I had not entirely realised how autobiagraphical this book was going to be, it's an excellent companion to 'Who was Dead and who was changed' and for anybody interested in the themes Comyns goes on to explore at greater length, there all here. Virago elected to keep the original poor spelling intact which makes for hard reading sometimes, there is no particuler narrative, this being a collection of stories the auther told her children about her own childhood, so at times it can grate. Otherwise interesting, human, funny, and a little bit horrific.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sisters by a River 31 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A quirky tale written in an interesting style which well reflects the age of the writer at the time. It is especially interesting if you are familiar with the area where the author lived with her family.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a treasure which will appeal to anyone with a certain twist of mind. Its very bourgeois, very 30s, and very very funny. It knocks the spots of a lot of books seen as funny from the 30s/40s (much better than any Evelyn Waugh, except maybe Put Out More Flags). What most gives it a lasting value is the relationship between the sisters, and the unfolding narrative about the house and landscape they inhabit. I picked it almost by accident as holiday reading and now think everyone should read it. Not sure about Comyns's other work, but this is terrific.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'humor and horror juxtaposed' 20 Dec 2011
By sally tarbox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Lovely book that can only be described as the literary equivalent of naive art! Comyns recounts episodes from her childhood, brought up in a genteel if debt-laden family. It put me in mind of Nancy Mitford's account of her own family. Irascible Daddy, vague, deaf Mammy and six children who for want of outside company spend much time together.
Comyns writes in a unique childlike style with eccentric spelling and an antipathy for semicolons, so that phrases run into each other.
Mammy had always looked and been rather vague, she had a kind of gypsoflia mind, all little bits and pieces held together by whisps' (sic)

Far from being a sentimental account, Comyns recalls the horrific alongside the magical- villagers are drowned in the flood, Daddy has violent tempers, animals get ill-treated- yet with a childlike acceptance.
I LOVE Comyns' work!
5.0 out of 5 stars Original dark and funny 3 Jun 2014
By Sally A. Cruikshank - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love all Barbara Comyns' novels and was delighted to find this one was back in print because I'd never read it before. She's a very original writer, funny and scary descriptions of family life in a 16th century house by a river.
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