03-30-2008 10:15 PM
03-30-2008 11:08 PM
A Novel that really makes the reader think and the dialog fly.
Wow, this reader expected just another ordinary book and thankfully found thought-provoking, unique literature. While reading "The Sister", I was so fortunate to encounter dozens upon dozens of unique conversations with others who were reading this unique tome and upon finishing it; I absolutely could not stop thinking about it. This is a novel that brings forth dialog and emotion, and above all, causes the reader to think. We have Poppy Adams to thank for reviving smart literature. She is definitely one to watch.
Other titles I would recommend:
The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty by Sebastian Barry
"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs
03-31-2008 09:45 AM
04-01-2008 12:18 AM
I would love to discuss the plot in painstaking detail, but there's really no way I can without spoiling it for you, the potential reader, and I do think you should read this book. Simply put, action is kept to the minimum in The Sister; the bulk of the novel is composed of flashbacks to the narrator's youth and the slice-of-life situations one might imagine would result after two sisters estranged for decades are reunited; all of which builds up to some pivotal choices, events, and outcomes. But oh, these are very well done indeed.
Adams, who worked as a documentary filmmaker before trying her hand as a novelist, brings a cinematographer's sense of pacing, staging, and ambiance to her narrative. Readers are certain that something is going to happen, just not what. Or when. Adams has also performed the neat trick of creating a character reliable in her unreliability (the meaning of this phrase will become clear to anyone who reads the book), as well as penning what could have been a hackneyed ending but with an unusual twist, which it is just killing me not to be able to discuss here.
That said, a caveat: lepidoptery (the study of moths) plays an integral role in The Sister's plot. I actually enjoyed this aspect of the novel quite a bit, as it offered a chance to learn something about a discipline with which I'm not terribly familiar while being entertained by a cracking good story; nevertheless, I can see how those passages might disagree with a reader looking for faster pacing from their novels. But once one stops to think about it, all the talk of moth behavior adds to readers' understanding of the main character in a way that simply would not have been possible otherwise without some other disruptive means (breaking with the narrator's voice or worse yet, the dreaded explanatory epilogue). I found The Sister to be highly enjoyable book that I recommend to anyone looking for a suspenseful read.
04-01-2008 11:24 AM
04-01-2008 04:50 PM
"The Sister" is an evocative and eerie novel that centers around the relationship between two adult sisters. When these two sisters (who have not seen each other for decades) undertake to reunite, things are not quite as one would expect.
Ms. Adams captivated my attention and drew me in to the dark and ominous world she created. It was difficult for me to put the book down and I often found myself reading ahead of what the book-club schedule dictated.
The novel does heavily focus on moths and the science underlying the moth life-cycle and this was a reason some readers attributed to not enjoying the book. I confess that I did prefer other portions of the book but I did feel that the science added an important element to the story and assisted in character development.
All in all, I think Ms. Adams presents a compelling novel and I think it's a perfect book for a rainy day (don't forget your cup of tea!).
Other books I recommend:
March- Geraldine Brooks
A Year of Wonders- A Novel of the Plague- Geraldine Brooks
A Thousand Splendid Suns- Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini
Katherine- Anya Seton
04-01-2008 09:21 PM - edited 04-01-2008 09:23 PM
Message Edited by Artistwriter on 04-01-2008 09:23 PM
04-02-2008 02:29 PM
04-03-2008 09:21 PM
04-06-2008 03:32 PM
Arthur: How can you tell a cannibal?
Vivi: Well, they’re the only ones left, silly.
Arthur: No, before they’ve eaten the others.
Vivi: Oh, that. They’ve just got a look about them.
I received this arc from the Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club. It is so wonderful to be a part of this program because the authors are also on the message boards and will answer questions from readers. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading Poppy Adams’ responses to the questions posed. I will definitely be reading more of her work when it comes out. The Sister is her first novel.
Originally titled The Time of Emergence, and called The Behaviour of Moths in the UK, The Sister is a book where, after reaching the end, the reader may be left with more questions unanswered than answered. There are multiple interpretations that could be made about several different occurrences in the book. For me, that’s what makes this story so fascinating. I know that may be more of a frustration to some, though.
Vivien (Vivi) and Virginia (Ginny) are two sisters who grew up in a countryside mansion with lepidopterist ancestors. Their maternal grandfather and father were both lepidopterists, and Ginny becomes a lepidopterist. What is a lepidopterist? It’s a person who studies moths and butterflies. There is much discussion of the behavior of moths in this book, but it is an essential aspect of the story. While reading and after finishing the book, I realized many parallels between the behavior of moths and the behavior of the characters in the novel. This is a book I’ll probably re-read at some point to catch all the connections between the two.
Vivi and Ginny have been separated for decades, and the reasons why become apparent as the story unfolds. Very different from each other, Vivi is outgoing and leaves home for London at a young age, while Ginny is an introvert and a homebody. In fact, as the novel opens, we get the sense that Ginny hasn’t left her home for many, many years. Vivien decides to come back to the house, stating to Ginny that as sisters, they should spend their old age together. The entire novel only takes place over a few days, but as each day unfolds, we are also given glimpses from the past and why they have been separated for so long. All of this is told from Ginny’s perspective, though, and as Ginny and Vivi discuss their history together, they both realize that they saw their childhood in distinctly different ways. These differences are crucial to figuring out what is going on in the story.
What is going on in the story? I don’t want to tell you much, because it has a really good, creepy, gothic, Hitchcock feel to it that is better left to finding out by reading the story. If you don’t mind not having everything wrapped up in the end, and if you like having multiple interpretations of a storyline, you’ll love this book. I really enjoyed it, and the more I think about it, the more I love it.
2008, 275 pp.
04-07-2008 10:38 PM
I was taken in by the first chapters of the book where we find one sister waiting for the other to arrive, but slowly the book lost me through all the science of the moths. I wanted to follow the mystery of the families lives, but it kept getting thrown in with moth talk. The book did grab me toward the 2nd half of the book and had me until the end, where I felt I was left hanging. For a first novel, I give Poppy Adams good marks for her characters and story, but she left to many questions for the reader to have to answer on their own. I wanted to like this book, but in the end it wasn't my type of book.
Rating: 3 stars
04-08-2008 11:39 AM
'There’s rarely a sole cause for the separation of lives. It’s a sequence of events, an inexorable chair reaction where each small link is fundamental, like a snake of upended dominoes. -From The Sister, page 5-'
Poppy Adam’s debut novel, The Sister, begins with an elderly woman waiting for her sister to arrive home after a 50 year absence. Ginny has lived her entire life in the family house - a broken down, monolith tucked into the countryside of England. She is a recluse who peers from behind her windows at the neighbors and lives an obsessively ordered existence bordering on paranoia. Vivi, on the other hand, is socially outgoing - an older woman who looks ten years younger. Years earlier,Vivi separated herself from her family and appeared to never look back. But now she has returned and this event will become the catalyst which allows Ginny’s long repressed grievances to emerge.
The novel occurs over a four day period and is narrated from Ginny’s point of view. As Ginny remembers her childhood with Vivi, the reader begins to understand the source of her neuroses. Ginny’s father, Clive, was a famous lepidopterist and Ginny assisted him with his obsessive study of moths. The moths become another character in the book, which in my opinion elevated the novel from a so-so Gothic tale to an exceptional first work.
The Sister is about mental illness, addiction and the dynamics of family, but it is also about nature vs. nurture and whether or not it is choice or biology which dictates our behavior. Adams uses the moth as a symbol to underline these concepts.
'I can mimic the scent of a flower so that a moth will direct itself towards the scent, and kills itself. Each time each moth will kill itself. It is this constancy that makes them a scientific delight - you do not need to factor in a rogue element of individuality. - From The Sister, page 55-'
The Sister is a spellbinding work, one which immerses the reader completely in the story and builds to a relentless and shocking end. Adam’s development of Ginny’s character is like a slow train gathering speed and momentum. The sense of doom, of things unraveling provides the tension for the novel.
Readers who like all loose ends tied up may struggle with this book. Adams allows for reader interpretation of certain events, and Ginny’s reliability as a narrator is questionable. The Sister will appeal to readers who like to work their way through a web of information, untangling it as they go. It is a thoughtful novel which explores the darker side of human nature.
04-08-2008 01:16 PM
4-stars -- Recommended
After a slow start, I found myself caught up in Ms. Adams' debut novel. While I normally read books for their enjoyment factor and don't necessarily read them with the aim of analyzing every action of the characters, I found myself constantly rethinking my opinions of Ginny and Vivi and how their lives evolved as they did. Ms. Adams' does a very good job of weaving the sisters' memories of the past into their present lives. It is interesting to see how Ginny and Vivi see the same events in totally different lights. As the story progresses, Ginny is forced to rethink some of her earlier memories and how they impacted her life. How might her life have been different if events had occurred differently?
Ms. Adams' use of moths and how she interwove the moths with the behaviors of the family members was neatly done. Some of her scientific descriptions about the moths and their development were a little too indepth for my tastes.
Ms. Adams' does not "spoon feed" the reader everything about this book, but makes you think. If you don't like having everything handed to you, you will enjoy this book. If you like to think and draw your own conclusions, this book is for you.
Other books that I would recommend:
- Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
04-08-2008 06:04 PM
2-stars -- Disappointing
More than Disappointing
Giving 2-stars is being nice. "The Sister" by Poppy Adams was a waste of my time. It was captivating, mostly because I kept reading because with every page turned, I'd tell myself it was going to get better. Next thing I knew, 200 or so pages went by and I hadn't fallen in love with the plot, or the overwelming amount of useless information that I pray I can push out of my head. A few of the characters I liked, but they were buried to the neck in bugs, or in this case; catapillars. If you are looking for a scientific report on every stickin detail of bugs, then this book is for you, except occasionally there are some paragraphs about some people, with some problems, doing something. If you are looking for a compelling story about family, the loss of loved ones, and the insanity that comes with family, then don't bother reading this book, because it is only a tease of a glimps into the of lives of Ginny and Vivian.
04-09-2008 08:53 AM
The Hitchcock-weird feeling of the characters can be downright bone chilling. Ginny narrated the story, and throughout her tale, little idiosyncrasies cropped up about Ginny, like her wearing of two wristwatches – one standard and one digital – that she meticulously checked for accuracy against her bedroom alarm clock. Or the drawer full of cannabis tea bags that she maintained to help her with arthritic pain but never liked to use because it caused a lack of symmetry in the drawer. Adams “spoon fed” Ginny’s personality quarks to the reader throughout The Sister, resulting in the nagging hunch that Ginny may not be a reliable narrator.
Then Adams, through Ginny’s narration, drew a picture of Vivien that was equally unsettling. Vivien was selfish and attention seeking, often manipulating her relationship with Ginny for her own gains. Ginny had a major inferiority complex with her sister, and the way Vivien was depicted, one could see why: smart, beautiful and full of creative ideas. You never get the sense though that Viv was a good person (through Ginny’s eyes), but the reader cannot doubt the love between them.
The Sister has the making of a great novel, especially for readers of Gothic literature: an old house, eccentric characters and a secret to be discovered. However, it has an obvious flaw – The Moths. The sisters’ father, Clive, was an expert in moths and taught his craft to Ginny when she was a teenager. Throughout the first half of the novel, The Moths are major characters. The reader learned about different types of moths, their importance to scientific research, how one caught them, how to kill them, how they transform from a caterpillar into a moth and what’s inside the cocoon during the transformation process.
All of this scientific knowledge took up pages of the story. While it was well written, it bogged the story down. When the reader finished, you can see how and why moths were important to The Sister’s plot, but perhaps Adams could have arrived at this point in different way. I almost abandoned The Sister because of the darned moths – and though I am glad I did not, I still have to shake my head about why they took up such a prominent place during the first half of the novel.
Once you get past The Moths, the suspense and mystery built masterfully into a real page-turner. I would recommend The Sister to readers with that disclaimer: have patience during the first half of the book and then prepare to be awed during the second. Adams made a promising debut, and I look forward to her future stories.
04-10-2008 11:17 AM
04-11-2008 09:32 AM
2 and a half stars
Too Many Moths
This dysfunctional family drama unravels very slowly. Narrated by an introverted recluse, the chapters seem filled with painstaking description – of the creepy house, of the estranged relationship between the diametrically opposite sisters, and the nature of moths. If you are intellectually stimulated by drawing your own conclusions to unanswered questions, delving into tedious descriptions about scientific information, or reading about disturbing human behavior, then you will enjoy this book.
04-11-2008 07:05 PM
04-12-2008 10:01 PM
04-14-2008 11:20 PM
Although I had the desire to finish the book, I found myself reluctant to pick it up in my free time. While I was interested in the descriptions the author gave of the characters and the house, I was turned off by all the detail about the moths. I don't think the author needed to go into the subject quite as much as she did. I found myself trying to skip through all that description.
The author did a good job in unveiling the personalities of the two sisters from the time they grew up together, attended school, and eventually ended up together in their old age. I do wish the author gave us more of an explanation of what was going on with Ginny.
I belong to a book club and I wouldn't recommend this book. It contained a few surprises but I think the author didn't quite make a connection with the reader. And you need some kind of connection to keep the reader interested. I wasn't sure I really cared what happened to these two sisters!