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Sister Paperback – September 1, 2010
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2011: When the body of Beatrice’s beloved younger sister, Tess, is discovered in an abandoned building in Hyde Park and ruled a suicide, Beatrice knows the police have made a mistake. She’s certain her sister was murdered. Determined to uncover the truth, Beatrice impulsively begins to hunt for clues on her own. So begins Rosamund Lupton’s stunning debut, Sister, at once an engrossing thriller and a powerful meditation on the bonds of family. Writing her story as a letter to Tess, Beatrice gradually connects the strange, varied occurrences leading up to Tess’s death--Tess’s pregnancy; a trial drug from a pharmaceutical company; a man who may or may not have been a figment of Tess’s imagination. Beatrice’s former life falls apart as her search veers toward obsession, and she realizes she might pay a terrible price for the truth. An adrenaline-filled psychological thriller, Sister’s emotional impact comes from Lupton’s heartrending portrait of the love between Beatrice and Tess. --Lynette Mong
Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Rosamund Lupton
We had the opportunity to chat with bestselling author Rosamund Lupton about her debut novel (and one of our Best Books of June 2011), Sister, via e-mail. Read on to see what Rosamund had to say about London, sisterhood, her next novel, and more:
Amazon.com: Before writing Sister, you worked for many years as a screenwriter. How does the process of writing a novel differ from writing for television?
Rosamund Lupton: When I was writing screenplays I was just one part of a creative process, it would take the talents of many other people to bring the screenplay to life. With a novel, you know what you type is the finished thing--there’s just me--and that feels both daunting and liberating. As a screenwriter I was often ticked off for "directing from the page" or "writing a novel not a script!" Now, I love being able to use as many words as I like to tell the story--a hundred thousand in the case of Sister--and being able to write the interior life of a character as well as their surface interactions.
Amazon.com: I love the way London almost becomes a character unto itself in this story. The city seems to mimic Beatrice’s emotional state while she searches for clues about Tess’s death. Why did you select London as the setting? Did you spend time exploring the places Beatrice visits?
Rosamund Lupton: I chose London as I know it so well, I’ve lived here for many years, and because, as you say, it possesses a chameleon quality to show a state of mind. For example, Hyde Park in the depth of winter is covered in snow and silent, with leafless trees and is so different from a bright Spring day when the trees and grass are green and there’s children paddling in the fountain. I’m not surprised its been used so often for films; it has a cinematic quality and at the beginning of the book it’s like a black and white film set to me. I already knew all the places Beatrice visits as they are close to where I lived for many years, or worked, so the city is like an old friend.
Amazon.com: Sister is written as a letter from Beatrice to Tess. Why did you choose to structure the novel this way?
Rosamund Lupton: At one point, Beatrice says to Tess, "it’s a one way conversation, but one I could only have with you." I felt that writing it this way continually demonstrates their intimacy. Also, as a former scriptwriter, I found it easier to tell the story as one character speaking to another; as if it’s one half of a dialogue.
Amazon.com: Did your relationship with your own sister impact how you crafted the relationship between Beatrice and Tess?
Rosamund Lupton: I know as an older sister how protective and responsible I’ve always felt towards my sister and I posed the question, what would you do if your sister went missing? I knew that Beatrice in the book would drop everything and get the first flight to find Tess--as I think almost any sister would do. Although Beatrice and Tess are very different from my sister and myself, the emotional truth of their relationship is one I know well. Like my sister and I, the closeness between them is made up of a million tiny details rather than simply the "big things." Some small details are drawn directly from my own life. For example, my sister and I wrote to each other at boarding school, and used jigsaw letters and ones with invisible ink.
Amazon.com: Can you tell us anything about your next novel?
Rosamund Lupton: It begins with a mother running into a burning school to rescue her teenage daughter. The book continues to be about how far a woman will go to protect her family. It’s ultimately about love not recognizing any boundaries.
Amazon.com: Sister is bound to be on a lot of summer reading lists. What are you looking forward to reading this summer?
Rosamund Lupton: I have a big pile of books that are looking so enticing, I can’t wait to have time to read them! At the top are Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and Sarah Winman’s When God Was a Rabbit.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. British author Lupton's unusual and searing debut is her heroine Beatrice Hemming's letter to her dead younger sister, Tess. Abandoned by their father just before their eight-year-old brother's death from cystic fibrosis and raised by their genteelly ineffectual mother, Bee and Tess have always exchanged long, intimate letters, so when Tess, an unmarried London art student, apparently commits suicide after her CF baby is born dead, Bee resigns her corporate design job in New York City and moves into Tess's shabby London flat. Convinced Tess was murdered, Bee gradually learns Tess had been spurned, like her unborn child, by her married art teacher lover; she had also been eerily pursued by a drugged-up slumming fellow student and mentally tortured by hallucinogenic drugs thrust on her by a masked stalker. Bee's self-defenses crumble as she discovers that she never returned Tess's anguished calls for help. Observing the unsettling similarities between her mother and her fiancé, Bee realizes "why no one could be my safety rope." At the harrowing conclusion, Bee's aching heart accepts that "grief is love turned into an eternal missing." (June) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
This has such a heartbreaking beginning which is cleverly written. Three chapters in and the novel feels as if it’s somehow turned into an autobiography of not just Beatrice (the main character), but also Tess’s (her sister). Then the truth is revealed. Beatrice, is giving a police report describing her sister Tess, who has been murdered. She has to start at where she realized her sister was dead and thus the events breathtakingly unfold to the reader.
According to the police, Tess has killed herself from Postpartum depression after she has a stillborn baby. But Beatrice isn’t buying their reasoning. Tess was an artist in London attending a University at age 21 and she closely kept in touch with her sister Beatrice who lives in New York. Her body is found in a horrendous place. And the pieces of the puzzle just don’t fit together. Both sisters lost their brother when he was young from Cystic fibrosis and were abandoned by their father. It’s clear from the start they both cherished life and would never do anything that drastic to end it. So, she sets out to discover what really occurred to Tess no matter what the cost. Beatrice gets no support from either her fiancé or mother who just wants Tess to rest in peace.
Unfortunately for Beatrice, things come flashing into view quickly when she begins her investigation. Such as:
-A creepy unrequited student who takes photos of Tess
-A misdiagnosis from an overworked Psychiatrist
-Drugs found in Tess’s body during her autopsy
– An affair with a married man
And if that’s not enough, just when you get use to shedding tears and the tenacious investigating of Beatrice who is getting close to solving the mystery, the author pulls the rug right out from under your feet. It’s absolutely terrifying. I was so shocked I had to close my book and calm down.
All this is only scraping the top off the latte. It goes downhill fast. The thing that will keep you intrigued is the love from Beatrice’s words for her sister and her telling the story. The choice of prose and use of vocabulary the author writes in is humbling to say the least–not one wasted word. If you’re a beginning writer prepared to be schooled. I promise.
In the end, I saw this novel as a love letter from one sister to another. If we all had someone like Beatrice on our side, maybe, the world would be a better place?
Beatrice knows her sister did not kill herself. There are certain things she knows without a doubt about Tess. She would never kill herself and she doesn't lie. There are too many things that don't add up about the coroner's final decision of suicide and Beatrice refuses to accept that result. She becomes a "thorn" in the side of the police who tell her to accept the facts and get on with her life.
I rated Sister with 5 stars because it was a good who done it that I was unable to figure out and because of her wonderfull writing. I felt like I knew the characters and I was able to picture each person, place and circumstance she descibed. I liked everything about this book.
I honestly don't know why I kept reading, but the characters (except the non-existent lawyer) were quite well drawn, and the author does a good job of introducing twists and thrills, especially at the end. Although the very end was not developed.
All in all, this could have been a good book had an editor steered Lupton away from the awful concept of having the main character narrate the whole thing to her dead sister.