Friday, 17 December 2010

Sister - Rosamund Lupton


My new approach to reading is 'everything and anything'; no more agonising over the shelves in Waterstones and now adopting a  more shopping trolley dash and grab… so last week celebrity centred chic lit, this week a thriller/murder mystery.

Very early on this book grabs you and quite quickly the uninspiring cover and blurb are proved wrong; never judge a book by its cover it does seem. Interestingly a criticism of the novel is that the big focus on ‘missing’ hoodwinks the potential reader, as Tess, the 'sister' is found dead very early on. 

It does switch to a more conspiratorial crime novel, however, Lupton writes it as Beatrice's stream of consciousness in the style of a letter to her dead sister. This keeps it personal and takes the edge of the investigative aspect that can get a bit tiresome in this genre of writing.

And actually to me Beatrice’s ‘missing’ sister was less of  a physicality and more that, Tess, in a sense, has been missing from her in life and through her death she ‘finds’ her. It is clear from the start that Beatrice, although having fulfilled the dutiful role of being a sister, in the sense of ‘real’ knowing, she has cut herself off from Tess as they follow different paths; Beatrice, with the rich fiancé, living in New York and a good job and Tess, the art student, single and pregnant living in a basement in West London.

The words from Beatrice are full of longing and regret from the start, the initial phone call where she is called and informed of Tess’s status changes her life in a moment. Not aware that her sister has already given birth, the sad circumstances elude her and starts to show up glaring gaps in communication between the two girls covering what can sometimes be the devastating outcome of being a mother, from Tess's point of view and from the point of view of the sisters' own mother.

There are lots of twists and questioning of psychopathic tendencies in the many characters in a 'Who did it?' or 'Is Bea delusional in her grief?' kind of way, you do wonder at times if she’s making up people and completely losing all sense of reality, lost in her own fiction.  Rosamund Lupton puts all this into the sub text cleverly and convincingly and it does lend itself to a guessing game throughout while covering some of the difficult sides to mortality and family dynamics, particularly regarding morality and peoples expectations and limitations they then put upon you.

Beatrice’s relationship with the lawyer Mr Wright is very interesting for me with the ultimate in twist that I half guessed reading the novel.  I can say no more without a spoiler, the difficulty of reviewing anything is you want to pull it to pieces but can’t without completely retelling and analysing from your own perspective. What might frustrate some readers is that the ending is kind of open, you decide Bea’s fate ultimately…I liked that choice.

A really promising debut from Lupton, it’s well paced and full of surprises, moving moments and a realistic depiction of loss and determination to find truth. I will check out her next novel which has teasers out already and I would recommend ‘Sister’ even if you’re not the biggest fan of the genre...and male readers, don't be put off by the title!

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