Posts Tagged ‘sisters’


In Margaret Atwood’s tenth novel, published in 2000, she tells the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase.

The book opens with a report of Laura’s death by possible suicide, shortly after the ending of World War II. An older Iris, writing from the tail end of the 20th century, tells the story of her current life, and also the story of her and Laura’s lives. There is a second narrative – that of Laura’s posthumously published novel The Blind Assassin, which is about two unnamed lovers and their clandestine meetings, during which the man entertains the woman with a rather macabre and violent sci-fi story set on the planet of Zycron.

Margaret Atwood is one of those authors who I love, even when I don’t love her. The Handmaid’s Tale was a solid 5/5 for me, whereas Oryx and Crake was something of a disappointment. But generally speaking I always get something from her books and rarely forget them.

The Blind Assassin was not at all what I expected and for the first part, I was not sure I was going to like it. But it kind of crept up on me and I realised that I was enjoying it. In all honesty I never really felt as though I got a handle on Iris despite her narrating much of the book. In fact, Laura was more of a rounded character – sure she was an enigma, but she was meant to be, even to those closest to her – despite being dead before the story started.

As always with Atwood, the language is intelligent and luscious, and often at times quite cutting. Nobody quite comes out of her books without some sort of mark by their name! I didn’t like the direction that Iris’ life took, but neither did she, so I imagine that was deliberate.

I would recommend this book to any fans of Margaret Atwood – although I probably don’t need to because they will have already read it. I felt always slightly detached from it; it was always a story with me on the outside looking in, instead of one of those books that you find yourself completely immersed in, but I liked it a lot for the writing and for never quite knowing where and how it was going to end.


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I listened to this audiobook over the course of two runs, on 23rd and 24th December. I wanted something Christmassy, but nothing too long, so this fit the bill. It’s narrated by Rebecca Courtney, who did a fine job.

Milly Arnold has always loved Christmas, but when she is dumped just before December, she loses enthusiasm and the last thing she feels like doing is the yearly tradition of helping her young nephews write their Christmas list. But she does so anyway and writes one of her own, asking for flowers, chocolates and shoes. When all of these things come her way, she wonders if she has tapped into a way of making all her dreams come true…

What can I say about this? It’s a bit fantastical, a bit humorous and an enjoyable enough listen, peppered with likeable characters. It’s not the most groundbreaking book, and neither is it meant to be – but if you want something short, festive and a bit chicklit-ty (but with an unusual twist) then maybe give this one a whirl.

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From the cover and title of this book, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s a light hearted comedy, or an undemanding chicklit novel. But it’s neither of those things. This is the story of Jean Collins, who is in a coma after having been knocked down while crossing the road. Her daughter Anne, who has always had an uneasy relationship with her mother, and is now married to a selfish husband and has two – frankly horrible -teenage sons, travels to be with her mother in the hospital.

Narrated in alternating chapters by Jean and Anne (with the very occasional chapter narrated by other characters) this tells the story of their family history, which contains secrets and tragedy which they have not addressed for years. Both mother and daughter hold guilt about the past, and through their memories, the reader pieces together the truth about a mystery which has created a hole in their lives and their hearts.

I really enjoyed this book, even though it is not always an enjoyable read. The characters have had a lot of heartache in their lives, and it is clear that they have not properly dealt with it before now. Both Anne and Jean are very believable and real characters – both basically good people, but deeply flawed and certainly not always likeable.

Jenny Eclair is very talented to have written such an easy to read (the writing flows beautifully) book, while at the same time handling some very tough and delicate subjects. I had one, and only one, slight niggle and that is that near to the very end, there is a almighty coincidence, which I feel was very unfeasible. But I’m just nitpicking with that. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book.

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This is the story of two New York sisters – Meghan Fitzmaurice is America’s favourite breakfast television anchor, while younger sister Bridget is a social worker, trying to help women from the Bronx projects find a better life. The sisters are good friends, and life seems to be coasting along nicely – until the day that Meghan, not realising that she is still on air, swears on live television and her career and personal life both go into freefall.  The fallout affects not just Meghan, but her husband Evan and their teenage son Leo.

Narrated by Bridget, the story takes in not just the aftermath of Meghan’s error, but is also a love letter of sorts to New York, and a history of the two sisters’ lives as well as their relationships with the men – and other people – in their lives.

I wasn’t too sure what to make of this book. On the one hand, I definitely think Anna Quindlen is a talented writer and I found myself reading large chunks in one go which is always a good sign (a bad sign is when I put a book down after a few pages and look for something else to distract myself). On the other hand….I felt slightly removed from the action. This was not one of those books where you feel excited to find out what will happen next and neither did I really care about any of the characters. Although the on-air gaffe was entirely unbelievable, the incredible over-reaction to it was not so much. I didn’t warm to Meghan much at all, and possibly this was because the story was narrated by Bridget – even though Bridget is possibly her sister’s biggest supporter. I think it was an interesting idea to have the sister as the narrator, but it would have been quite nice to see Meghan’s point of view, even if perhaps they alternated chapter narrations.

From other reviews I’ve read it seems that fans of Quindlen’s other books were largely disappointed with this one. For me, this was actually the first book of hers that I’ve read and I would probably be interested in trying another on the back of it.

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This novel tells the story of three sisters making their way in vaudeville in Canada in the early 1900s. Aurora, Clover and Bella, together with their widowed and fragile mother Flora, go from theatre to theatre, sometimes headlining, sometimes opening the show and experiencing the various ups and downs of vaudeville and life in general.

The book covers the period from shortly before the outbreak of World War I, to shortly before the end of that war. As the family move from across the country, they each experience love and heartbreak and end up growing up in their own individual ways.

It is very clear that the author has extensively researched her subject and there are some real life characters included, although most are fictional but based on real life (for example, one character is based on Buster Keaton and his family). It made for an interesting and informative read, and I do feel that it gave a lot of insight into what is essentially an unstable profession. What I liked about the sisters was their very believable love and support for each other – each had their own talent and personality and they all complemented each other.

While overall I enjoyed this book, I would say I liked it rather than loved it. I would recommend it, but with some hesitation as I feel that if historical fiction is not a genre you would normally enjoy, this is not a book which is going to change your mind.

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This is the story of Rose and Ruby Darlen, conjoined craniopagus twins who live in Canada.  Born on the same day as a giant tornado, and abandoned at the hospital by their teenage mother, the girls were adopted and raised by Lovey Darlen, the midwife who helped to deliver the twins, and her husband, Stanislaus (‘Stash’).  The book is narrated mostly by Rose, with occasional chapters by Ruby, and is written as their autobiography, telling about their lives with their adoptive parents, and the difficulties of living as conjoined twins, as well as the love and affection that they feel for each other.  The histories of the characters are also explored.

The beauty of the story is that it makes the reader see the girls as two distinct characters; their conjoinment soon stops being the thing that defines them, and instead their different personalities, likes and dislikes and idiosyncracies become the reasons for how we view them.

Rose is more bookish, and loves reading, writing and baseball, whereas Ruby loves to watch television, and explore local Indian archeology.  She seems to be the slightly more immature of the two girls (although there are moments when she displays real strength of character).  Due to the nature of their condition, Rose seems the more dominant twin, both in terms of personality, and also physically; she has to carry Ruby everywhere, with Ruby’s legs wrapped around her waist.

The girls naturally share a very close emotional bond and deep love for each other, but it is clear that both girls sometimes wish that they were not conjoined, or at the very least, imagine how different life would have been if they had been born separately.

As well as the almost unique difficulties they face due to their physical condition, the girls also face problems that many people would be familiar with (Rose, for instance, tells how she became pregnant and had to give her child up for adoption; something that haunts her permanently).

I found the characters very real and likeable, and especially liked Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash, who are extremely well developed.  Their human flaws and strengths are well depicted, making it easy for the reader to care about these people.

The writing flowed well, and although the story jumped about between the present day and the past, it was not difficult to follow.  The personalities of Rose and Ruby came through well in their respective narratives, so that I never lost track of who was speaking (it was interesting to see how they both remembered the same events differently, even though it would seem that due to sheer logistics, their memories would be expected to be almost identical).

I didn’t find the book perhaps as moving as I thought it might be, but it was an engrossing read nonetheless, and I would certainly consider reading more by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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A wife and four daughters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – are left behind when their father follows his calling as an Army Chaplain during the American Civil War.  A formerly affluent family, they have fallen on hard times, but despite this, they find ways to amuse themselves, and always strive to be better people.  They take their lonely neighbour Laurie under their wing, and he becomes practically another member of the family. 

This book was written for young adults, and I first read it as a teenager. However, upon revisiting it now some years later, I think I actually preferred it second time around. Due to the time it was written, some of the values contained within are somewhat outdated, and there are a few religious overtones which will probably be less relevant to most readers today, but despite this, it remains an endearing and thoroughly enjoyable book. 

I grew to care about all of the characters.  Each of the four girls is distinctive from the others and each of their personalities shine through.  Eldest daughter Meg is the elegant young girl on the cusp of becoming a woman, second daughter  Jo is a quick witted tomboy who cares little for fashion and decorum, third daughter Beth is gentle and thoughtful, always thinking of others, and the youngest child Amy is sometimes selfish and vain, but very caring and funny. Laurie is also a terrific character, by turns insolent and mischievous.  

Although the book is written in the third person, I felt that the character whose point of view was most closely shown was Jo.  This is unsurprising, as Jo was apparently based on the author herself.  Indeed, Jo seemed somewhat ahead of her time, with her passion for writing, and her desire to stand on her own two feet.

There is comedy and tragedy in this book, and while one chapter would have me smiling, I actually found myself crying at another chapter.

Some books are called classics with good reason – this is one of them.  Highly recommended.

(Note: The next book in the series about the March family is called Good Wives, and is often called volume 2 of Little Women.  This review relates only to Little Women, i.e. volume 1 of the story.)

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