This was a slow read - a really slow read! I found the writing style painfully awkward, possibly due to the translation, possibly due to the fact that this is a book written in a Chinese dialect for a Chinese audience. It just didn't seem to be going anywhere. Having said that, and having been to a book group to discuss the book, I now feel that, retrospectively, Three Sisters did have quite a lot to offer, I just needed help to interpret it.
Yumi, Yuxiu and Yuyang are the three sisters; although there are seven sisters in all, the others warrant barely a mention.
The narrative begins in 1971 with the birth of the first boy after 7 girls. Yumi, the eldest sister, has taken over the running of the home as her mother abandons all responsibility now that she has finally given birth to a boy.
This first section illustrates the profound difference between the family protected by the father, Wang Lianfang, as Party Secretary and then, as they become nobodies, once he loses his position by taking his philandering too far. (It seems that messing with the wife of a soldier is unforgivable, while lesser wives are fair game).
Yumi is a strong character and determined to let the women her father was sleeping with, know what she thought of them. In spite of her young age, these women shrink before her - until everything changes and Yumi must compromise and settle for a lesser future.
The third sister, Yuxiu, is less well described. She is beautiful and knows it. But life completely changes for her too, with her father's fall from grace. She is manipulating and devious, but this is not enough. There are some interesting interactions between these two sisters, but neither are ultimately happy.
The story of the youngest sister, Yuyang, takes place ten years later. She is very intelligent, studies hard, and has earned herself a place at teacher training college. Here she is encouraged to spy on her fellow students and is not in a position to refuse.
This was a much weaker section. Yuyang didn't seem to be going anywhere, largely because her options as a country girl were severely limited. She is just another woman trying to take control of her own destiny, in spite of her low position in society and the other selfish students, all out to better themseles at others' expense.
The book is made up of three rather disjointed narratives - there is little to tie the three stories together, particularly the last one - and then, with no warning, the book just stopped...