How dare you? I can’t even start this review with a quote, I’m so furious. Sister is excellent. Magnificent. Just enough tension to be gripping without being terrifying (see my reaction to Mice). Plenty of sister-love. Lots of London-love. A nice bit of transatlantic “I wasn’t there” guilt.
And then you went and RUINED IT with that wimp of an ending. A non-ending, if you will. A coda abbandonnata. You leave it up to the reader? Seriously? Who does that? You know who? Me. In my GCSE coursework. When I was 15. I studied Physics at uni so you should understand that I am the world’s worst creative writer. Worse than Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer and every bosom-heaving, bodice-ripping, flower-despoiling romance writer there ever was. Even J.K. Rowling knew that we were not having it left up to the reader as to whether Ron and Hermione got together and had unfortunately-tressed mini-magicians, OK, she told us! In a terrible prologue which turned me off the franchise altogether, but she told us.
Do you realise that the whole book doesn’t make sense if you don’t resolve the ending? Only one half of it does? The only half only does if the ending goes one way, not the other? Because *can’t rant about why because it would be a massive spoiler* – and therefore you haven’t failed to write an ending, you’ve just forgotten to put the last 5 pages in – or not realised the logical fallacy.
OK? Have I made myself heard? I DID NOT LIKE THIS ENDING BECAUSE IT IS NOT AN ENDING, YOU LEFT OFF FIVE PAGES.
Right, now I can write the love letter to this book that I wanted to write until I got to the last page and there wasn’t another one.
I love the double thread structure – one a letter from Beatrice (Bee) to younger sister Tess, who is the titular missing sibling; the other Bee recounting everything to someone else in a professional capacity. I only realised halfway through that the fact that Bee was telling everything to someone meant that the truth was definitely down one path. The double structure is a great way to make the plot both devastatingly personal and clinically precise.
I didn’t see the ending coming at all, you pulled the old one-two on me there (I’m not ashamed, PI novel writers do it to me all the time), of course one of the most sympathetic characters turns out to be the baddie, and there’s a chilling resolution rather than a neat one with handcuffs which starts out good until YOU FORGOT FIVE PAGES *calming down again*
London London London. Hyde Park in the snow. Those dreadful subterranean flats with slippery stairs in winter and lovely elderly landlords. The tube and the smell of “burned rubber sweat”; the abundance of daffodils and the torture of hayfever sufferers; the understaffed hospitals and the underclass of single mothers, alone in this huge city in which no one should be alone and yet everyone is. You got London.
Just like you got being a big sister. The fear of not being there. The need to be organised and ruthless and trade an exciting life for safety and comfort. Just like Rose in The Weird Sisters. The memories of time before there was a littler sibling, but not many of them.
There are lots of men in this novel, and I like it all the more for it. Unlike The Women, (the dreadful 2008 film) in which no men appear at all, here they’re everywhere. There’s Bea’s fiancé, quite drippy and annoying and prejudicial but we like him anyway. There DS Finborough, a much better policeman than DI Haines, who is the embodiment of the Peter principle. There are three doctors, kind and overworked, whose personal and professional integrities waxe and wane during this tale.
I would have given you 10/10 and put you right up there with my top books for the year, except for that slip I mentioned earlier.
Yours disappointedly and also euphorically,
I seem to have read huge numbers of sister books recently – or maybe they stick with me because I have a Mini-Me. Maybe books about small children will resonate more when I have some. All the sister books I have read been excellent: The Weird Sisters, The Distance Between Us, The Thirteenth Tale, The Seamstress.
Oh and here is a picture: