Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Sister is narrated by Beatrice, a twenty-something woman who has flown home to London from her life in New York because her younger sister, twenty-one year old Tess, has gone missing. Beatrice, or Bee as Tess would call her, writes a letter to her sister which in part describes the events surrounding her disappearance and in part is a memoir of their sisterhood, warts and all.

The book is basically a love letter from one sister to another and in that context it is a superb piece of writing. It delves into all the nuances of the relationship; the shared memories (good and bad), the slights (real and imagined), the words that were said and those that would have been taken back should the universe allow. It is a marvellous portrait of both the bond between the two sisters and the grief one feels at the unexpected disappearance of the other.

Where Tess is fun-loving, gregarious and artistic, Beatrice is reserved, seeks security and does not normally stand up for herself but over the course of the story Beatrice goes through a fairly fundamental shift in her personality which is, again, credibly drawn out. We also see Beatrice develop a deeper understanding of her mother’s motivations for various actions and behaviour and this relationship too is an interesting one to watch as it develops into one of adult equals more than parent and child.

I must admit I found the whodunnit element of the book less successful. It was so clunky in a couple of places I actually wondered someone (author or publisher) had pushed to squeeze the manuscript more deeply into a genre (I thought the prominently positioned pull quote from Jeffrey Deaver on the edition I read was serving the same, somewhat misguided, purpose). I’m out of touch with what’s hot in publishing circles right now but I think this would have been just as good a book, perhaps an even better one, without this somewhat clumsy element.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the book as a whole because the relationship of the sisters is depicted with a finesse and thoughtfulness you rarely see, particularly from a début author. I also had the added bonus of an outstanding narration of the audio book by Juanita McMahon. I’d read the first chapter or so of the book in print form (on someone else’s kindle) before reaching the top of the library’s audio queue (long before I was ever going to get near the top of the print queue). McMahon’s depiction of Bee was just as I had imagined.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Reviews of the book abound but I’d caution that many of them give away far more of the plot than is warranted (yes I’m talking to you NY Times). Naturally you’ll find a lovely and thoroughly un-spoilerish review at Petrona

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 3.5/5
Author website
Narrator Juanita McMahon
Publisher W F Howes [2010]
ISBN 9781407469188
Length 12 hours 45 minutes
Format audio (CD)
Book Series standalone
Source borrowed from the library

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7 Responses to Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

  1. Maxine says:

    What a kind mention, Bernadette, thank you! Like you I loved the story of the two sisters, and despite not liking the idea of the mother in the first part of the book, I found that part very moving, too. Again like you, some of the “thriller plot” aspects were too much of a cheat or too obvious, but I think this often happens if a “mainstream” novelist is advised by someone to jump on a trend and make the book crime fic as this is popular right now. Not sure if that happened here, but for me the book would have worked better had it stuck to its “anatomy of grief/celebration of a past relationship” line and missed out the crime (& cheat) bits. Great review, as usual! I am still on the fence about whether to read her next one, has been out here for a while but despite blandishments to buy it whenever I go out, I’ve resisted, not sure why.


  2. Bernadette – This certainly does sound like a book worth reading on the strength of the characters and their relationship, even if the mystery part of the plot is less well done. And using the strategy of a letter can be really effective. Thanks for an excellent review.


  3. crimepieces says:

    I enjoyed reading this book but I feel the ending (and don’t worry I’m not going to give the plot away) was completely unsatisfactory. The book is on the shortlist for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger award and I’m not sure I agree with the judges on this one. But it is selling very well here so I think that I’m in the minority.


  4. Kathy D. says:

    I’m on the fence about this book. I liked the caring by the protagonist of her sister and her grief. I didn’t care so much for the talking to the deceased sister by addressing her as “you” consistently throughout the book. I thought that tipped the book over into “bizarre.” And I also didn’t care for all of the plot lines, especially the ending, about the murder.
    I don’t know if I can read another book by this author unless the style is different.


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  7. Belgie says:

    This book is suspenseful with enough twists to keep you thinking, guessing & interested. I was a bit underwhelmed with the overt genetics underpinnings. I also at times had to focus on the setting – are we in the past or the present?; however, there is an eventual payoff to the reader. The best part of this novel the author’s ability to vividly portray the bonds of sisterhood.


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