The Sister by Poppy Adams

the sisterWhen I first started reading this book, the premise of it struck me as something like “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”  in an English manor house setting.  All the elements of a Gothic thriller are here – the grand but crumbling mansion, skeletons in the closet, etc.  The narrator is Ginny, the older of two sisters who has lived at her family’s estate house largely alone; her sister Vivian left abruptly some 47 years ago.   The story begins with Vivian’s return.  Ginny is unnerved at her sister’s presence and its disruption on her daily routine.  Totally at a loss as to her sister’s motives, Ginny shadows her fervently, convinced that Vivian wants something more than just a convivial reunion.  Tempers flare, the proverbial closet-bound skeletons are let out, and…well, you’ll have to read it.

The manor house in The Sister is a character in its own right, a silent partner to Ginny and her reclusiveness, yet uncannily alive, a bricks and mortar creature that protests against its own decay and neglect.  The descriptions of the house and of the surrounding Dorset countryside bring a breath of life to the book, which does have its dry passages; the reader will probably learn far more about moths than they care to know.  The interesting parts are the flashbacks – the family history that gradually reveals Ginny and Vivian as adversaries rather than loving sisters.  It’s well worth reading as a study in dysfunctionality and how perceptions within a family differ from sibling to sibling.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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