The Sister, by Poppy Adams

Cover ImageFinished 2-08-10, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 2008

“No pictures, no clothes, no photos.  I mean, you’ve wiped out every reference to our past.  Our family might not have happened.  There was no point in its existing for the last two hundred years if it’s got nothing to show for itself.”

It is an interesting view but not one I share.  Is it really necessary to record your life in order to make it worthwhile or commendable?  Is it worthless to die without reference?  Surely those testimonials last another generation or two at most, and even then they don’t offer much meaning.  We all know we’re a mere fleck in the tremendous universal cycle of energy, but no one can abide the thought of their life, lived so intensely and exhaustively, being lost when they die, as swiftly and as meaningless as an unspoken idea.

Chapter 3

Ginny is an odd duck and a questionable narrator.  Her vivacious sister Vivian is returning to their Dorset, England home after 50 years away and Ginny is nervous, not sure why her younger sister is coming back.  Vivian left the house when she was just 15 years old for London where she lived, worked and fell in love.  Ginny stayed home to study moths with her father, a famous lepidopterist.  When Vivian asks her sister to help her have a child, Ginny said yes, unable to ever tell her sister no.

Vivian’s return home brought into focus that there is more than one way of looking at a childhood spent in the same house, two ways of looking at your parents and their motivations and sometimes even your own.  This was a dark look into the thoughts of a woman who seemed to have some struggle with reality.  Ginny had become a recluse and I thought at first the years alone may be why she was so strange, but that was not the case.  She billed herself as the sensible sister, a genius when it came to moths and keeping the family together, but by the end that is up for debate.

I did not like Ginny and never did connect with her.  As Ginny doled out facts, there was always something moving the story forward, so I was always interested, but the pages and pages about moths throughout the book really did slow the story down.  The story is strange and an interesting psychological study and the end totally threw me.  Actually, I’m still trying to piece together a few things that were purposefully left out and I’m not sure I’ll ever really figure it out.  If you can live with that then give this book a try.

This is from my personal library and was chosen for me by Jennifer and Sandee.  Here’s what Jennifer had to say…”I listened to this on audio and thought it was marvelous – not as good as The Thirteenth Story, but very, very good.”

24 thoughts on “The Sister, by Poppy Adams

  1. Wanda says:

    It sounds like an interesting enough story but after the book I’ve just been through, I’m not certain that I want to tackle anything “questionable” just now.

    Just to be clear, Vivian moved away when she was just 15 making her 65 when she returns and Ginny is the older sister. So, I’m assuming these two must have met up at some point before this reunion if Ginny helped Vivian have a baby, right?

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I believe that the last time they saw each other was at their mother’s funeral, but it was many years ago. I’m not sure how many years that was though, but when they were younger.
      They are both in their late 60’s when this takes place. Good questions!

  2. fleurfisher says:

    Once I clicked that Ginnie was unreliable I did like this. Yes, it had it’s failings but as a debut novel it felt quite promising. I’ll certainly pick up whatever Poppy Adams writes next.

  3. jennygirl says:

    hmmm..I don’t know about this one. I don’t usually do well with psychological books, especially when you’re not sure what really happened. thanks for the good review but I’ll pass.

  4. Kaye says:

    I’ve been watching for someone else to read this book and review it. When I finished I felt like I ought to reread it again and think about it from Vivian’s point of view. It was quite the book–one I’ll probably never forget.

    I actually enjoyed reading about the moths–especially about the primordial soup. I also thought it lent to setting Ginny’s perception of herself. Her work with her father (real or imagined) was what gave her a sense of self worth.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      The link to Jenners review is in a comment above, you should check that out. I didn’t mind some of the moths, but it was just too much for me. I’m glad that you liked it and despite my seeming endless complaints I liked it too. I did give it a 3.5, which is above average 🙂 Looking at it from Vivian’s point of view would be interesting, but I wonder if it would answer any of the questions I was left with?

  5. Wrighty says:

    I read this one last year for a B&N book club on line and I didn’t care for it at all. The stuff with the moths really lost me and while I liked the idea of the ending I didn’t care for the way it was done. It wasn’t a book for me.

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