29 Jul Sisters by Michelle Frances
A summer of sisterly bonding goes horribly wrong…
Imagine a latter day Thelma and Louise racing across Europe in a frantic flight from justice! That’s the situation sisters Ellie and Abby find themselves in. But there the similarity ends – for the sisters aren’t close friends. They’re bitter enemies, bound together by past sins of omission and commission.
Ever since they were young, Abby has resented Ellie. Her little sister, sickly with an undiagnosed ailment, took all their mother Susanna’s time and attention, leaving Abby out in the cold. She finally escaped to university, a good job in the city and now, aged just 36, has retired to Italy where she lives a life of ease with her husband, handsome policeman Matteo.
Ellie, meanwhile, has outgrown her childhood troubles but, left far behind academically, is scraping a living as a teaching assistant. That doesn’t stop her spending though – the antithesis of Abby when it comes to money management, she is now deeply in debt.
Abby’s resentment of Ellie as her mother’s favourite has carried on into adulthood, but now it seems she wants to make amends, by inviting her to her Italian home for a summer of sunshine and sisterly bonding. Perhaps discussing the past will clear the air for the future.
But then their mother Susanna turns up, and old grievances resurface. In a dramatic, unspeakable turning point, the sisters flee Abby’s home (taking Matteo’s gun with them). With no real plan of where they’re going, their journey into the unknown nevertheless takes them deep into the past, where each must question the other’s outlook on their childhood.
Will they learn to trust each other? Actually, should they learn to trust each other, or will that just take one or the other into deeper, ever more dangerous territory?
This is a real page turner. Though I found the sisters’ flight from justice implausible at times – how on earth did the police not catch up with them sooner? How could they act so normally, eating, sleeping, enjoying the scenery, in the face of what they had just fled – I was compelled to put myself in their shoes and accept that life goes on. But where is it going to end? The drama and tension certainly kept me reading!
What I found completely convincing was the narrative of the sisters’ family history – you could empathise strongly with both girls’ points of view in relation to their upbringing, and even spare some sympathy for Susanna, a single mother, abandoned by her husband, disowned by her wealthy parents, struggling to being up two little girls, one of whom is sickly.
The unfolding of the back story in tandem with the ongoing drama of the fugitives’ flight kept me gripped. The sisterly dynamic is always interesting, and I could completely empathise not just with Abby and Ellie’s resentment of the other, but also with their intense desire to have a better relationship. No matter what lies and secrets hide in the past, family bonds are everything, and the author explores the relationship between the two sisters and their mother with a deft, convincing confidence.
Abby, Ellie, their mother Susanna, even grandmother Kathleen – who puts in the odd appearance through the story – are all strong characters, all flawed in their own way, and all very good at lying, to themselves and to each other …
Will the fact they are family be enough to save them, or will Abby and Ellie go Thelma-and-Louise-style, over the edge, metaphorically or even literally?
One thing is for sure – either the past, the police or fate will catch up with them in the end.
A truly gripping read.
Sisters is published by Pan in paperback, £7.99, also available in ebook and audio format
About the author
Accomplished writer Michelle Frances has worked for fifteen years in film and TV as a script editor and producer for both the independent sector and the BBC.
Her debut novel, The Girlfriend, was an international bestseller. She is also the author of The Temp and The Daughter, as well as Sisters.
Visit her website michellefrancesbooks.com
Thanks so much to Ellis of Pan Macmillan for inviting me on this #blogtour and to #NetGalley for the advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review.
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