We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rosemary and Fern were inseparable growing up, revelling in growing and learning together and soaking up as much attention as possible from their family and anyone who visited their home, including their father’s graduate research students. That is, until the day Fern vanishes from family life turning Rosemary from a bright, talkative child into a confused young woman desperately seeking answers to the disappearance of her sister and the reason for her older brother running away.

Karen Joy Fowler’s arguably most successful novel The Jane Austen Book Club is a book I absolutely adore so I had very high hopes for We are all completely beside ourselves. Although the plot couldn’t be more different, the writing is as beautiful and packed with emotion whilst being fiercely intelligent with enormous depth. Karen Joy Fowler really knows how to take the reader and make them empathise wholly with her characters. At points, I was so immersed in the story I forgot I was reading a novel, it honestly could have been a true life childhood memoir.

My copy of this book came with a note advising me to tweet my reaction when I reached page 77 which intrigued me and I have to say, I did not guess the big plot reveal in the slightest (which dented my ego somewhat as somebody who studied this kind of thing at university!). Suffice to say, what starts as a normal family memoir ends as something entirely different and is one of the most original plots I have had the pleasure of reading in years.

I can’t remember ever reading a novel which has so easily balanced humour and important moral issues in the way Karen Joy Fowler has here. I found myself thinking about the subject of this novel in between reading sessions in more depth than I ever would have before outside of my degree.

I cried and laughed my way through this book and fell in love with Rosemary and Fern to the extent that I was sad when I reached the end. It really is one of the most beautiful novels I’ve read in a long time and I have no doubt I will be giving copies to my friends and families for many Birthdays and Christmasses to come.

This review was first published on Nudge-books.com and Goodreads on 8th May 2014.

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The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mia and Katie Greene have a complex, turbulent relationship which, since the death of their mother, has only declined further. Katie, the sensible, strong, older sister is tired of looking after her younger sister; Mia is frustrated with always appearing to be the inferior, substandard Greene sister.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Mia announces she is leaving for a round-the-world trip with her best friend. Katie, though bemused by the suddenness of her sister’s actions, is relieved at the thought of having space away from their constant arguments- until she is woken in night by the police, informing her of Mia’s apparent suicide in Bali.

Gripped with grief, unable to believe that her strong-willed brave younger sister would ever commit suicide, and impelled by Mia’s travel journal, Katie sets off on a journey of her own mirroring Mia’s trip as closely as possible in the hope of finding out exactly what led to Mia’s death.

Lucy Clarke’s writing is beautifully poignant. She flawlessly encapsulates the complex emotions found within a sister relationship; the hate, love, jealousy, pride and admiration all rolled into one. The story is packed full of descriptions of the beautiful places the girls visit, however, the sister’s relationship remains the focal point of the book throughout. Katie and Mia’s voices are strong and unwavering and I didn’t find my attention straying from them for a single page.

I really loved the way Mia’s story was told through the voice of her travel journal. It made me feel a personal connection to her; something which is usually difficult to achieve with a character that dies before the story begins. Both Mia and Katie are deeply flawed characters; however, by the end of the book I felt an almost sisterly annoyance and love for each of them.

The sisters’ journeys intertwined beautifully, revealing secret after secret slowly and with maximum impact. Often when an author packs so many twists and turns into a novel I feel overwhelmed and the story loses its impact. This is not the case with The Sea Sisters. Each revelation was delivered with great effect, sending waves of emotions through me and making the book so gripping I kept having to tell myself to “just read one more chapter…”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough; the story and its characters will stay with me for a long time and I cannot wait to read more from Lucy Clarke in the future.

This review first appeared on Nudge-books.com and Goodreads on 3rd April 2013.

View all my reviews

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mia and Katie Greene have a complex, turbulent relationship which, since the death of their mother, has only declined further. Katie, the sensible, strong, older sister is tired of looking after her younger sister; Mia is frustrated with always appearing to be the inferior, substandard Greene sister.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Mia announces she is leaving for a round-the-world trip with her best friend. Katie, though bemused by the suddenness of her sister’s actions, is relieved at the thought of having space away from their constant arguments- until she is woken in night by the police, informing her of Mia’s apparent suicide in Bali.

Gripped with grief, unable to believe that her strong-willed brave younger sister would ever commit suicide, and impelled by Mia’s travel journal, Katie sets off on a journey of her own mirroring Mia’s trip as closely as possible in the hope of finding out exactly what led to Mia’s death.

Lucy Clarke’s writing is beautifully poignant. She flawlessly encapsulates the complex emotions found within a sister relationship; the hate, love, jealousy, pride and admiration all rolled into one. The story is packed full of descriptions of the beautiful places the girls visit, however, the sister’s relationship remains the focal point of the book throughout. Katie and Mia’s voices are strong and unwavering and I didn’t find my attention straying from them for a single page.

I really loved the way Mia’s story was told through the voice of her travel journal. It made me feel a personal connection to her; something which is usually difficult to achieve with a character that dies before the story begins. Both Mia and Katie are deeply flawed characters; however, by the end of the book I felt an almost sisterly annoyance and love for each of them.

The sisters’ journeys intertwined beautifully, revealing secret after secret slowly and with maximum impact. Often when an author packs so many twists and turns into a novel I feel overwhelmed and the story loses its impact. This is not the case with The Sea Sisters. Each revelation was delivered with great effect, sending waves of emotions through me and making the book so gripping I kept having to tell myself to “just read one more chapter…”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough; the story and its characters will stay with me for a long time and I cannot wait to read more from Lucy Clarke in the future.

This review first appeared on Nudge-books.com and Goodreads on 3rd April 2013.

View all my reviews