Book Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Sister Sister

By Rosamund Lupton

Piatkus, 2010.

 This engrossing, haunting novel is told from the point of view of Beatrice, a young English woman who is a successful commercial art designer in New York, recently engaged to Tod. At the start of the novel, Beatrice is in her sister’s London flat, looking out of the window at the hordes of media clamouring for a quote or interview. Tess, Beatrice’s younger sister, has disappeared. We deduce that the circumstances are dramatic and awful; soon, via Beatrice’s thoughts, we come to understand what has happened.

It is hard to write a review of this novel, because a bare plot description removes the many subtleties of the story of Tess’s life (gradually uncovered by her sister in the days after Beatrice’s precipitous arrival in the UK). Suffice to say that Beatrice decides to find out for herself what happened, dismissive of the official explanation which is universally accepted.

This novel is a very powerful, and convincing, account of a relationship between sisters as well as of grief and its after-effects. It is mostly told in the form of an internal letter from one sister to the other, which adds a beautiful element. There’s also a very moving subplot about the redemption of another relationship – that of a mother and her daughter. The way in which one daughter gradually realises the truth about her childhood perceptions is quite marvellous.

I really loved this book, and would urge anyone to read it. I was lucky enough to start it on a day when I’d booked a holiday from work, as I spent quite literally all day reading it from page 1 first thing in the morning, to the last page in the mid-afternoon. The crime plot is not as good as the rest of the book – the identity of the perpetrator is too obvious; the much-discussed "twist" at the end not a proper twist; and unfortunately the area of clinical research is completely misunderstood (though the author does a good job on describing the science of a single-gene defect). The details of hospital practice and treatment of visitors are also somewhat inconsistent with what I know of reality.

The power of this novel is in its depiction of the relationships of a mother and two daughters, and the inner lives of the girls. I loved it, and am glad that the novel is enjoying such success as a result of being one of the Richard and Judy book club selections this year.

I purchased my paperback copy of this book.

Judy and Richard's reviews of this novel are here; and a synopsis/reader comments on it are here.

Video interview with Richard and Judy, and a conversation with the author.

Author website, including an extract from the novel. 

Read other reviews of this novel at: The Independent (brief); Katie's Book Blog; Bioethics Bytes (unusual perspective); and  A Booklover Talks.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

  1. Maxine – Lovely review! Your description of the book reminds me just a bit of some of the plot points of Lisa Appignanesi’s Sanctuary. Only this one sounds, in its way, quite a lot richer. I’m eager to give this one a go.

  2. Slowly uncovering the secrets of some women´s lives – I think I smell a delicious story here. I am happy that you seem to have had good company on your day off!

  3. Sounds like a good story. Obviously your Richard and Judy bookclub picks more accessible books than our First Tuesday bookclub (local TV-based bookclub) which has chosen Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged as this month’s pick. I got to about page 700 (of the 1200+ pages) when in my 20’s but then decided to watch paint dry instead of finish 🙂

  4. Oh wow, Bernadette- I read that book many, many moons ago and I know what you mean! An ambitious choice!
    Mind you, I can’t speak for the other R&J selections, I don’t know if I’ll read any of them. But I liked the look of this – actually I read about it first as a preview article in the Bookseller before it was selected as an R&J pick. By the time it was published, it had been picked and hence I could benefit from the heavily discounted price!
    Dorte- yes, thanks – I took a couple of days off as my elder daughter came for a visit which was lovely.
    Margot- thanks for that tip, I will check it out.

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