Opening sentence: “My sister is a black hole.”
Sisters is the first book I’ve read by Daisy Johnson and certainly won’t be my last. She is a British author whose debut novel, Everything Under, was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. In Sisters, her whip-sharp and completely atmospheric Gothic writing took me straight into the enticing story and revealed complex characters that slowly give us nuggets about their true selves.
And who are the characters?
Well, they are the wonderfully named teenage sisters, July and September and their mother, Sheela. This is a story of the unique and intense relationship that only sisters can have, especially ones born 10 months apart. Not twins, but linked as if they are.
We meet July and September as they move house with their mother due to an incident in their home town of Oxford. The detail of which is tantalisingly held back until the end of the book, and then spins the whole story on its head when it is revealed.
The house is straining to see down to the beach where September and July are up to their waists in the sea, the fire on their faces.
As in any good Gothic novel, the family home is just as much a sinister character as any of the humans. The family move to a imposing, quite isolated house by the sea owned by their aunt. It has a personality of its own and ends up playing a significant role in the story. It’s where Sheela gave birth to September, it’s also where September’s father was born. There are blood ties and history that slowly seep through the bricks and the story.
I could not put Sisters down. The brooding, often sinister feel that thrummed through the pages kept me wanting more. The atmosphere and complex characters brought to mind another book I love: Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle – if you’ve read this then definitely add Sisters to your TBR. Sisters is a really great modern Gothic tale that gets under your skin. In a great way.
- Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC;
- Published by Jonathan Cape 13th August 2020;
- 192 pages;
- My rating: