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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Sluttery Book Club: Sister, by Rosamund Lupton

It's the first Domestic Sluttery book club! The book we're kicking off with is Sister by Rosamund Lupton. As well as chatting away in the comments on this post, we're so excited that Rosamund Lupton is joining us for a live Twitter chat this evening at 8pm. Grab a beer and make some snacks and get involved by following @DomesticsSuts and the #SlutteryBookClub hashtag. There's nothing on the telly.

So what's the gist of this book then? When Beatrice's younger sister Tess goes missing, she drops her life to head to London to find her. On the face of it, Sister is a psychological crime thriller, but it's also an exploration of sibling relationships and the determination of human nature.

Sian: I bloody loved Sister. I was completely enthralled by it. It made me late for a party because I was sat on a bench in the King's Cross underground finishing the last chapter and it made me stay up until 2am because I just couldn't put it down. Damn, it's been a long time since a book made me do that.

I'm not a crime fiction reader and I imagine someone who was might have seen the ending coming, but I was totally gripped by the plot. That said, I don't think that's why I liked the book so much. There's an emotional side to the story as well, and that's what was so interesting for me - the link between the main character Beatrice and her missing sister Tess is beautifully written and heartbreaking in parts. At points I found myself welling up on the train. Not because it's sentimental, some bits really shocked the hell out of me. This book hits a nerve.

I didn't enjoy the scientific ideas behind the book as much as the rest - that felt like a bit of a tangent that got in the way of the good stuff. The journey that Beatrice goes through was more interesting to me, but I honestly didn't see the ending coming and the parts of the story I loved definitely overshadowed the bits I wasn't so keen on. Sister may not be without its faults, but it really packs a punch.

Frances: I'm a complete and utter scaredy cat and was nervous at the thought of picking up a thriller. But Sian's enthusiasm convinced me, and right up until the end of Sister I wasn't scared, just completely swept up with where the story might be heading. I did cry at this book too, but definitely out of sadness - there's some bits that really hit you where it hurts. Thinking back, it wasn't the 'what happened?' elements I most enjoyed in the book. Instead it was the well drawn relationships: whether between couples or within families. Bea also does a good line in speculation on other people's lives which rang very true to me. They definitely weren't the two-dimensional characters I (perhaps too judgementally) associate with crime fiction.

The flip side was that I was so caught up in what was happening in these relationships, sometimes I forgot about the main story line of the book. The result of this was a major plot revelation where I had to skip back through several pages to try and work out exactly who was being referred to. I'd really like it if Rosamund Lupton's next book is about a family in crisis - it can be as simple as being over spilt milk! She writes about people intelligently and with such heart, I would love to read something of hers that isn't so reliant on having to deliver people from A to B (albeit with some impressive twists along the way).

Sara: Here's my summary of reading Sister: I love it, I like it, hmm I'm skimming this bit, OH MY GOD ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I can't say too much about my reaction to the ending without giving away plot points, but it recast the novel and totally made the book for me. Like Sian and Frances, I enjoyed the relationships more than the scientific parts which left me cold at points. The narrator changes subtly throughout the book and I found myself unexpectedly warming to her; her emotions and reactions shift in an entirely believable way. Sister impressed me, not least in how it avoided sentimentality and the natural way the plot unfolded, but it didn't get under my skin in the way it does for others.

Sel: 'Sister' isn't the kind of book I'd automatically choose but I'm so glad I did (see, those 'Staff Recommendation' cards sometimes work!). What got me was the relationship between Beatrice and Tess and the emotions that Beatrice goes through during the story. I also loved the way she related to the other characters, especially with her mother and boyfriend. Her reactions and emotions were completely believable to the point where I did find myself crying at various points. To be honest, I think it could've done without the slightly convoluted science storyline - that's a whole other book in itself - because the real story is the relationships between the characters. Rosamund writes human emotion brilliantly and I didn't think it needed anything more than that. It's still a book I don't hesitate to recommend though and I look forward to reading more of Lupton's work.

The Sluttery verdict? A book that'll make you cry, shock you and scare you and despite us not loving the science bits and missing a few of the plot points, the relationships are so beautifully written that we got totally swept up in the characters. A Sluttery thumbs up for this d├ębut novel.

Go on, you're all itching to tell us what you think. Loved it? Hated it? Tell us! We want to know what you think. Tell in us in the comments below, and join us later for the chat! Don't forget, we're chatting about Kate Morton's The House at Riverton on July 31st if you fancy a little more Sluttery reading. And we're definitely going to pick up Afterwards - Rosamund's second novel.

WARNING: We've kept all spoilers out of this post, but we can't promise that you won't read spoilers in the comments. In fact, you definitely will. Don't say you weren't warned.

25 comments:

  1. I really loved it! I was a bit unsure at first, as I'm also not a big crime fan usually, but it's a plot that really grabs the reader and I found it really difficult to read just a few pages at a time - it felt like there was always some big revelation that I had to know the consequences of.

    I kind of thought that the "whodunnit" aspect seemed fairly predictable, as I'd suspected that person from early on, but I still didn't see the ending coming at all. Besides, despite being suspicious of that person, Bea's journey and the people she encounters were so interesting I honestly don't think I would have minded even if the mystery had been completely spoiled.

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    1. I guessed the whodunnit part as well - as soon as he started hitting on Beatrice. But the actual ending totally took me by surprise.

      I think the emotional pull of the book sways us usual non-crime readers - maybe it gives us something else to get into rather than evidence and red herrings?

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  2. I've just bought this on Amazon so will be too late for the discussion but will look forward to returning and reading the posts once I've read it!

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    1. Can't wait for you to get into it!

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  3. I really loved this book...............and i thought 'Afterwards' was even better! When is the next one coming out?

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    1. Hurrah for it being even better - can't wait to read that one!

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  4. Rosamund Lupton17 July 2012 at 17:25

    So great to read everyone's comments and fascinating for me to see what people respond to. Means a huge amount when people say they love the book - thank you. Even without the praise (though please do keep it coming-:) it's great to have this open and social chat going on about the book. Writing it was a long hard and lonely journey, so this is a wonderful change.

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  5. I'm also not a crime fan but loved 'Afterwards' - definitely recommend it. It sounds as if all the things you all liked about 'Sister' are the things I liked about 'Afterwards'. As you say, the plot moves it along but it's the relationships that keep you interested - v insightful and evocative. I'm going to check out 'Sister' now.

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    1. Just ordered from Amazon, thanks Kate!

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  6. It's interesting that everyone enjoyed the relationship aspect of the story - I guess the key relationship is the one between Tess and Bea. What did everyone think about Tess's influence on Bea, and the novel?

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    1. I think Bea subconsciously becomes more like Tess in order to keep her memory fresh. Beatrice seems such an uptight character to start with that it's only by having Tess' kind of determination and impulsiveness that she can go on to find out what happened.

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    2. I wonder what would have happened if it had been the other way round? Would Tess have needed some of Bea's natural suspicion and caution to work out what had happened?

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    3. Rosamund Lupton17 July 2012 at 20:48

      That's a fascinating idea Frances, I hadn't thought of it but love the idea of Tess having to be a little less naive and acquire some of Beatrice's less appealing characteristics.

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  7. I really loved Sister. I was completely engrossed by it and kept going back to it every chance I got. I didn't guess who the killer was or see the ending coming at all. I loved the characters and the way a lot of the story was told in letters by Beatrice to her sister. So heartbreaking but really drew you into the story and the relationship between the two of them. I was a little disappointed with the ending but only because I like a happy ending with good overcoming evil so would have preferred to know for definite that Beatrice had been rescued and the baddy get his comeuppance. I was also disappointed that Mr Wright wasn't real. But it is a fantastic book and will definitely be reading the next one.

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    1. I quite liked that Mr Wright wasn't real. It was quite a surprise to me but made sense given that Beatrice was quite an ordered character who had had such a sudden upheaval.

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    2. Nicola, I was so disappointed Mr Wright wasn't real. I loved crush secretary and his friendship with Bea. I thought the ending was really interesting - I like to think she was rescued.

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    3. Yes, totally agree Nicola. I really hoped that Mr. Wright was real so that Bea had some semblance of happiness.

      Also, the idea that Bea died in the same spot her sister did would kill me - if only because it would mean her mum would be entirely alone.

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    4. Yes, I definitely thought she was rescued. I was surprised that people didn't think she was, or saw more ambiguity there.

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    5. Oh I don't think she dies! I hate the idea that she might have died there.

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    6. When you find out that Mr Wright isn't real, you re-visit the story and view it differently. When she describes feeling cold or ill when giving her statement, you realise she is feeling that way from being tied on a concrete floor. Really enjoyed the book. I have an artistic sister that I am close too - it struck a chord...

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  8. Rosamund Lupton17 July 2012 at 20:46

    For what it's worth, for me Beatrice has to be saved at the end. When I wrote her story I saw Mr Wright as helping her get through the night she thinks she's going to die. He helps her make sense of what's happened, while talking to her sister offers her emotional comfort. At the end she has survived the night, and the voices she hears are her rescuers. But she has been, deliberately, an unreliable narrator, so it's every reader's decision

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    1. Once I knew he wasn't real, I thought calling him Mr Wright was an excellent touch!

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    2. Only just realised that! Very clever...

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  9. I read Sister back at the start of the year and couldn't put it down at all. I loved the contrast between Tess and Bea, and their reliance on each other (whether they realised it or not). I loved Mr Wright and was sad when it was revealed he wasn't real, just a voice Bea used to keep herself going. I'm SO glad that it's kinda-sorta-maybe been confirmed that she's saved... now I want to have to dig the book out and read it again!

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  10. I am late to the discussion (as usual), but wanted to say that I loved it as well. It reminded me of one of those really good British Mystery shows that keeps you on the edge of your seat, but makes the characters so likable and intimate that you feel like you know them...it was sad, but also loving and hopeful in a weird sort of not-cliche way. Thanks for the suggestion!

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