Sisterland Paperback – 1 Jan 2014
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"A work of psychological genius and has a wonderful twist at the end...a literary pageturner...There's a fizzing, daring originality to Sisterland that draws you in and takes your breath away." (Observer)
"Engagingly messy mixture of the comic and the sombre...a beautifully delicate way of describing both familial and conjugal love." (Guardian)
"Curtis Sittenfeld has a knack for capturing characters so vividly it's uncanny...brilliantly evokes small-town Eighties adolescence...the gripping denouement is expertly carried out." (Daily Mail)
"Wise and empathetic, this is a book with a great sense of humour and an even bigger heart." (Glamour)
"Sittenfeld's debut Prep was one of the best novels about adolescence written this century, and it is here, when dealing with the competitve world of teenage girls, that Sittenfeld is at her best in Sisterland...Like Kate Akinson with her recent Life After Life, Sittenfeld is a reliably realistic (if slightly dreamy) novelist who has here tackled a somewhat far-fetched concept outside her normal range and displayed impressive comfort in doing so." (Sunday Times)
New from the bestselling author of American Wife, a novel about twin sisters who share a special gift, and the enduring power of the bond between them.A Richard & Judy Book Club pick.See all Product description
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Sisterland revisits some of these themes, and like Prep, it has a narrator painfully ill at ease with herself - so much so that she has even changed her name from Daisy to Kate to distance herself from her childhood and from Violet, her twin sister. Daisy and Violet are, to a degree, misfits purely by virtue of being twins, but to make matters worse they are also psychic, prone to 'senses' about people, places and future events.
Whereas Violet is apparently happy to play the role of eccentric oddball, Daisy only reveals her talent when it seems it can help her make friends with the popular set - and needless to say, this backfires on her. As an adult, having reinvented herself as a housewife and mother to two pre-school children, Kate is every bit as embarrassed by Violet as she ever was - yet equally, also as inextricably linked to her despite their frequent rows. When Violet goes on public record as having predicted a major earthquake in the twins' home city of St Louis, Kate's past becomes not just an awkward shame but a threat to her family life, friendships and marriage.
In Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld gave us a narrator who was frequently selfish, hard to like and frustratingly poor at making decisions, and this carries through to Sisterland. There are times when Kate's feelings towards her chaotic, free-spirited sister seem painfully judgemental, particularly with regards to her weight and sexuality, and yet there are also times when Violet is such an infuriatingly selfish and disruptive influence that we can easily see why Kate would want to distance herself from her. It's also hard to sympathise with Kate when she jeopardises her marriage in the most of foolish of ways, but she at least partially redeems herself when she deals with the fallout from this in a steadfastly determined and courageous way.
poor at making decisions - yet still somehow made the reader sympathise with her. She pulls off a similar feat in
While the twins' psychic abilities are central to Sisterland's plot, this isn't really a book about ESP. It's a domestic drama of families, relationships, guilt and coming to terms with the past. The relationship between Kate and Violet is fascinating - are they really such very different people, or have they consciously chosen to push different aspects of their personalities to the fore? Also interesting - so much so that I'd have liked to have seen more of it - is Kate's relationship with her emotionally inept father, who despite being the sort of parent who buys his daughters low-value Starbucks gift cards for Christmas, is still responsible for some low-key, off-hand revelations that suggest there is more to him than meets the eye, if only his daughters had looked beyond the surface.
This is more a novel of character than of plot; the latter, it has to be said, is not really the focal point of the book and is occasionally disappointing. Overall, though, the small-scale events of Sisterland set against the looming threat of a possible large-scale catastrophe make for a fascinating family drama.
I personally felt that the ending was strange. It was the most dramatic plot event in the book, but to me there was no resolution to the story, in fact things ended up more complex than they started (certainly in some ways). It didn't feel as if that was deliberate on the authors part, either, but I could be wrong! I finished the book feeling disappointed in the actions of the main character (not that she made mistakes but that she hid them).
Despite all that, as I was reading it I did feel very drawn into the world that Sittenfeld creates and will probably try another of her books.
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This book surprised me as I got more into it than I was expecting. It makes for a good afternoon read with enough story and narrative to interest you.Read more