03-26-2008 11:14 AM
03-26-2008 12:20 PM
The story concerns 70-year-old Virginia "Ginny" Stone, a retired lepidopterist (a person who studies moths and butterflies), who is living out her life in her family's crumbling mansion. It's a solitary life Ginny leads, one that is based on routine and strict adherence to the clock. She wears two wristwatches just so she always knows the exact time. Her careful routines are about to be disrupted, she knows, so she watches her driveway with apprehension. Soon, her sister Vivien will arrive. Vivi. The sister she hasn't seen for 50 years.
Vibrant Vivi sweeps into the lonely old house like the proverbial breath of fresh air. But Ginny isn't wild about fresh air. She prefers the safety of her childhood home, where everything is quiet and predictable. Inside that monument to the past she can remember her life, her family the way she wants. Vivien's presence is an intrusion, a harsh reminder that the Stone Family kept its deep, dark secrets just like everyone else.
With Vivien in the house again, Ginny is jolted into the past. Her memories roam back to her childhood, years she spent happily ensconced in the laboratory with her father. Shy and withdrawn, Ginny preferred the cloistered life, where she could focus solely on her specimens. Vivien, on the other hand, resembled their mother Maud, who loved the excitement of society. While Ginny and her father toiled their lives away, happy in their seclusion, Vivi and Maud slowly deteriorated. By the time Ginny emerged from the lab, she found her life inexplicably altered - her mother had become a violent drunk and her cherished sister escaped to the city. Without Vivi to brighten their lives, The Stones followed their obsessive paths until tragedy left Ginny alone in the enormous family home. She retreated further into herself, until Vivi waltzed in a century later to open old wounds.
Despite Vivi's abandonment and further insults over the years, Ginny loves her sister. The bond between them is, in fact, the only bright spot in Ginny's life. As the sisters face the reality of their past, Ginny realizes a great many truths about her parents, about her sister, and about herself. Will the truth be too much for her fragile psyche? Will Vivi cave when Ginny brings her secrets to light? Will the link between the sisters survive? Or will the past crush everything they hold dear, even the strongest of sisterly bonds?
As you can tell from the plot summary, The Sister is not a light read. It's a complex psychological thriller, but not of the "can't put it down" variety. Instead, it builds slowly, chillingly, until it reaches its shocking conclusion. It's only after you've turned the last page that you realize you've been holding your breath.
I know a lot of reviewers didn't like the book's ending, but I thought it made perfect sense (at least in a Ginny Stone kind of way). In fact, it was such a logical conclusion that I really wasn't that startled by it. My beefs with the book lay more in the fact that it was so dense, especially with references to lepidopterology, that I often wanted to close it. I also felt that the author left too many loose ends - I still don't quite understand why Vivi chose to come back after 50 years or what certain minor characters (like Dr. Moyse) had to do with the whole thing. Many of Adams' subplots hung in midair, never connecting to the main plot and never resolving themselves. So, while I felt that the story's ending was right (although I can't say I liked it), I didn't feel satisfied. There were just too many dots left unconnected.
All that said, I ended up liking the book a lot more than I thought I would. It's an interesting read that delves into some fascinating issues. With a little polish (and a different cover - sheesh, how boring can you get?), I think this one could really shine - at least in a dark, brooding, Victorian kind of way.
03-26-2008 10:20 PM
When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber. Churchill
03-27-2008 02:07 PM
03-27-2008 03:25 PM
According to Western folklore a changeling is the offspring of a fairy that has been left in the place of a human child. Although a changeling takes on the human form, it eventually reveals itself by its voracious appetite and bouts of mean temperament. Reading the new novel The Sister by Poppy Adams, I felt like the worried parent who discovers that instead of their beloved child they have a changeling on their hands.
The Sister is a tale of a weekend reunion in the family manse of two sisters after an estrangement of over fifty years. Through flashbacks we learn some of the details of the sisters' lives, though we doubt the reliability of the sister who narrates the story. Ms. Adams skillfully evokes the creepy environment of this gothic tale and ably builds the entire infrastructure necessary for an enjoyable read. A clearly symbolic parallel universe of lepidoptery, the study of the moth, is sketched out in all its intricacies. A rich cast of characters is introduced and tension builds to feverish heights. But at the end of each act of the story, the true changeling temperament of the novel takes over. Characters who presented themselves as essential to the narrative disappear or are dismissed in an off-handed sort of way. Whole plotlines fizzle and whatever symbolism the reader is meant to take from the moths becomes a tiny cocoon filament unable to sustain the weight of the reader's expectations. After the first of these betrayals, the reader who perseveres, is subject to the same treatment twice more with the closing arc of the narrative leaving the reader confused with too much unresolved. And yet, between its tantrums and bouts of depleting the reader's trust, this changeling novel has much promise. Ms. Adams has a wonderful and unique voice. I just wish The Sister thought more of its readers instead of its changeling self.
03-27-2008 03:58 PM
03-27-2008 04:03 PM
03-27-2008 07:38 PM
Throwback to an age
Most of this story made for good reading. I was particular interested in Ginny's voice in this story. We never learn what sort of 'condition' she has, but she naively narrates the story in an autistic type of manner. I found that aspect of story quite intriguing.
The relationships Ginny has with her sister, Viviene, Viviene's husband and Michael, the lifelong family friend, are deep and thought provoking throughout the book.
I usually enjoy learning something from each book I read. Unfortunately, with this book, I learned far more than I wished to learn about moths and butterflies. One particular passage in the book actually made my stomach start churning.
I truly feel like this book has a dark, old world feel to it, that evokes nothing of the modern age, except for one reference to cell phones. And in some ways, this added to the character of the book. I like a book that evokes a mood.
If you enjoy this book, I would recommend the book, 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' by Jonathan Safran Foer.
03-27-2008 08:25 PM - edited 03-27-2008 08:41 PM
Message Edited by renhair on 03-27-2008 07:41 PM
03-27-2008 09:05 PM
03-27-2008 09:33 PM - edited 03-27-2008 09:37 PM
Moth Science and too many unanswered question!!!!
The book starts with one sister awaiting the arrival of another sister, whom she had not seen in nearly 50 years. The story is told by one sister as the narrator.
It does not take you long (about 2-3 pages) to realize that one sister has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). I would even go so far as to say she has a mild form of Autism.She lives in her own world, does not have a care in her life other than her moths. Too many pages are being filled with details of Moths, how to catch them, what kills them etc. The other sister arrives and disrupts "Ginny"s" small little world. You see that Ginny is a hermit and does not seem to think that there is anything wrong.The book continues with stories from the girls lives, mainly the childhood, and youth. You see a father whose main compassion are moths. A mother who upholds a picture and status of her family, but not admitting that there is a problem. Alcoholism. Ginny being the surrogate for her sisters child...Too dysfunctional, too disturbing, yet a some point interesting. But in the end you are left with many unanswered questions. You will never know why her sister came back or what she did all those years etc.
This is not a book to be read as an enjoyment. It is better suited for a book discussion.
Maybe the author should have ignored her documentary experience, in which case the book would have been a enjoyable. This is not a book to be understood and comprehended at the first read-thru but it is so disturbing that one will not get the urge to read it again.
I can strongly recommed:
The Thirteeth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
Message Edited by ancameni on 03-27-2008 08:35 PM
Message Edited by ancameni on 03-27-2008 08:36 PM
Message Edited by ancameni on 03-27-2008 08:37 PM
03-28-2008 03:16 AM
03-28-2008 08:28 AM
03-28-2008 05:03 PM
03-28-2008 08:14 PM
Poppy Adams's debut novel, “The Sister,” is the story of 70-year-old Ginny Stone's reunion with her three-years-younger sister after decades of estrangement. Though the title suggests a predominance of sisterly interactions, the reunion is mostly a frame on which to hang flashbacks into the family's dysfunctional history, including a generations-long line of lepidopterists.
The novel is narrated in the first-person voice of Ginny, and it's clear within pages that she's a little odd. It's a notable and ambitious narration -- indeed, by immersing the reader in the unreliable mind of Ginny, the author moves the telling of a story a literary leap ahead into the showing of it.
The trouble is, unreliability and ambiguity are why people like Ginny shouldn't tell stories; they tend to frustrate readers. While authors can provide clarity by orchestrating overheard conversations -- with subtext that the narrator doesn't fully understand but that readers do -- the ambiguity here seems a deliberate mechanism to build atmosphere and suspense. Three-fourths in, I anticipated that some wow-something would weave the dozen open plot elements into a final, magnificent reveal. But it didn't happen. Although the crisis scene itself was clear, all of the accumulated red herrings were ignored. At that point, having felt more frustration than empathy for the characters, I had little interest in speculating the ambiguity into clarity on my own.
03-28-2008 08:20 PM
03-29-2008 02:29 PM
03-29-2008 10:09 PM - edited 03-29-2008 10:09 PM
Ginny and Vivi are two sisters growing up in the English countryside. Ginny is an introvert and is expected to follow in her father's footsteps in his chosen field of lepidoptery. Vivi is an extrovert who longs to escape the country house and find a life for herself in the city. Told in a series of flashbacks his story follows the two sisters and their parents as the girls mature and begin their adult lives. However, the sudden death of the girls' mother rips the family apart. Now nearly 50 years later the sisters are living under the same roof again. But both sisters have questions about the events of so long ago and how to begin to live together again. What results is a compelling exploration of family relationships and personal perceptions.
Message Edited by Readingrat on 03-29-2008 10:09 PM
03-30-2008 04:41 PM