Friday, March 14, 2008

The Sister by Poppy Adams

the-sister.jpgOh dear...right after doing the "negativity meme" I have to go and do a review of this book. Here's the thing. I was really enjoying this book all the way up until the end. Don't you hate when that happens? I've read a few reviews now that were less than enthused about this one, so I wasn't expecting much...but I was pleasantly surprised! I was all ready to write a positive, glowing review for this one with the one remark that it gets a bit technical at times. But then it happened. Let me tell you a little bit about it first. The Sister is the story of two sisters, Virginia and Vivien (Ginny and Vivi) who have been estranged for nearly 50 years. The book is written by Ginny in first person and opens as she awaits the return of her sister to her childhood home where she is still currently living. They are now in their older years (Vivi is 67, Ginny is 70) and while Ginny looks forward to Vivi's return, she also wonders why she's choosing to return now. You see, they have a very strange past. They were very close as sisters at a young age but they came from a strange family that was gradually torn apart in every way. Their mother was a hopeless and abusive alcoholic and their father was a famous lepidopterist (a studier of moths) who ignored his wife's problems leaving Ginny to care for her and suffer the abuse. Vivien chose to leave the family and move to London becoming estranged from the madness surrounding it, but she always remained impartial to her mother not knowing how things truly were. Ginny however remained loyal to her father following in his footsteps and learning to love the moth and the science behind it's life. Now that they are reacquainted in their prime years, old tensions arise. Adams writes beautifully and spins quite an enchanting and atmospheric, gothic tale. She gives vivid descriptions of the dark, looming house that the two sisters are raised in, the strange relationships within the family...all very reminiscent of The Thirteenth Tale at times. You can see that there was lots for me to love at first. I will admit that sometimes she got a bit technical in describing the science of lepidopterology (moth studying) and the science behind all of these moth behaviors. While it was very interesting, it just went on a bit too long sometimes and it was almost like she forgot which story she was writing. But then something happened and I just wanted to scream "No!" Not at the character, but at the author. In my humble opinion, she destroyed the atmosphere she had going with the whole book with the last 30-40 pages. I just think she could've taken the end in a total different direction that would've brought this book to a different level and made it a modern gothic classic in my eyes. But instead, it's kinda been ruined for me and I ended up not really liking it at all...sorry! It's a big split at the end. She avoided so many cliches that authors fall into with stories like these throughout the book and it was inventive...then it just became very cliche to me. She had invented characters that pulled me in and had a wonderful yet bizarre dynamic going on, and while the ending remains bizarre - it's nothing new and it was something of an insult to her characters in my opinion. But still, I have to give it to her that she is an outstanding writer. I really enjoyed the book up until that one point, which was the majority of the story...and I'll probably give her another chance should she publish again. If you want to read this one for yourself, it will be released in June!

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