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The Sister – Book Review

sister.jpgThere’s rarely a sole cause for the separation of lives. It’s a sequence of events, an inexorable chain reaction where each small link is fundamental, like a snake of upended dominoes. -From The Sister, page 5-

Poppy Adam’s debut novel, The Sister, begins with an elderly woman waiting for her sister to arrive home after a 50 year absence. Ginny has lived her entire life in the family house – a broken down, monolith tucked into the countryside of England. She is a recluse who peers from behind her windows at the neighbors and lives an obsessively ordered existence bordering on paranoia. Vivi, on the other hand, is socially outgoing – an older woman who looks ten years younger. Years earlier,Vivi separated herself from her family and appeared to never look back. But now she has returned and this event will become the catalyst which allows Ginny’s long repressed grievances to emerge.

The novel occurs over a four day period and is narrated from Ginny’s point of view. As Ginny remembers her childhood with Vivi, the reader begins to understand the source of her neuroses. Ginny’s father, Clive, was a famous lepidopterist and Ginny assisted him with his obsessive study of moths. The moths become another character in the book, which in my opinion elevated the novel from a so-so gothic tale to an exceptional first work.

The Sister is about mental illness, addiction and the dynamics of family, but it is also about nature vs. nurture and whether or not it is choice or biology which dictates our behavior. Adams uses the moth as a symbol to underline these concepts.

I can mimic the scent of a flower so that a moth will direct itself towards the scent, and kills itself. Each time each moth will kill itself. It is this constancy that makes them a scientific delight – you do not need to factor in a rogue element of individuality. – From The Sister, page 55-

The Sister is a spellbinding work, one which immerses the reader completely in the story and builds to a relentless and shocking end. Adams’ development of Ginny’s character is like a slow train gathering speed and momentum. The sense of doom, of things unraveling provides the tension for the novel.

Readers who like all loose ends tied up may struggle with this book. Adams allows for reader interpretation of certain events, and Ginny’s reliability as a narrator is questionable. The Sister will appeal to readers who like to work their way through a web of information, untangling it as they go. It is a thoughtful novel which explores the darker side of human nature.

Highly recommended; rated 4.5/5.


  1. April 8, 2008    

    I’ve been seeing a lot of great reviews on this one. I’m definitely going to have to get my paws on it at some point!


  2. April 8, 2008    

    I knew you would like this one, especially after Michelle’s reaction. =) The moths, alas, were too much for me, but I am glad others liked this one.

  3. April 8, 2008    

    Sounds like a good book, Wendy. Sigh. Another one on the pile!

  4. April 8, 2008    

    Ha ha – remember that old song “Another One Bites the Dust” (Queen, I think??) How about:

    Another one on the pile…another one on the pile… and another one on and another one on, another one on the pile….”

  5. April 8, 2008    

    Lezlie: I hope you like it as much as I did – can’t wait to see your review.

    Jill: I don’t think you are alone…I saw some mixed reviews.

    Terri: LOL – now I will be singing that all night long!!!

  6. April 8, 2008    

    “The Sister will appeal to readers who like to work their way through a web of information, untangling it as they go.” Yes, I do enjoy that–sounds like an interesting read.

  7. April 8, 2008    

    So when a book is really good do we hum, “We will, we will, rock you?” Great review. Definitely adding it to the TBR list.

  8. April 8, 2008    

    Trish: Let me know what you think if/when you read it 🙂

    J Scott: Sure! Sing away!! *laughing* Thanks for the kudos…hope you like it as much as I did.

  9. April 9, 2008    

    Poppy Adams name is singing around in my consciousness for some reason that isn’t to do with this book, but for the life of me, I can’t remember why. Have you come across her in any other context?

  10. April 9, 2008    

    Ann: I hadn’t heard of her before I got this book – but I’m in the US and she is a British author…so it’s possible it is a British reference…

  11. April 10, 2008    

    Great review. I liked it too (and reviewed it on my blog) but I know there were quite a few people who couldn’t get beyond all the scientific stuff. I had no trouble and actually enjoyed all that.

  12. April 10, 2008    

    Lisamm: Thanks – *nods* – this one seemed to be “loved it” or “didn’t like it” as far as readers go.

  13. April 11, 2008    

    I’ve added this to my TBR list. You make it sound so good.

  14. April 17, 2008    

    Another great review Wendy. I have read a lot of mixed reviews for this book, but now that both you and 3M liked it, I added it to my TBR.

  15. April 18, 2008    

    Booklogged: It is a good read…I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

    Teddy: Thanks 🙂 I was wary of reading this because I’d read some bad reviews of it…but, it is one I truly enjoyed. If you have a mind for science, I think it will be one you like as well.

  16. December 16, 2008    

    Wendy, thank you, you have conveyed the spirit of this book this book beautifully.

  17. December 21, 2008    

    Fleur: Thanks!

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