Monday, March 3, 2014

Books About Sisters

I recently read two books (in a row) whose main focus was the relationship between two sisters during a trying/coming-of-age time of life.  One of these books was a reread: Sense and Sensibility, and the other is a book soon to be released: The Moon Sisters.

Now, if you're anything like me, you'd expect a soon-to-be-published book to pale in comparison to tried-and-true favorite.  I experience that so often that I really should pay attention and pick my following book more carefully.  What a surprise then, to have another good reading experience despite the glaring similarities and differences it held to Austen.


Sense and Sensibility is probably a familiar tale to most of you: two sisters disagree how best to live one's life—logic vs. emotion—whilst navigating that rough period between adolescence and adulthood.  Oddly enough, The Moon Sisters is about the exact same thing (I wasn't really expecting that).  Of course, there are some differences.  The era (Regency/Modern), the names (Elinor & Marianne/Jazz & Olivia), the location (England/West Virginia), and the situation (marriage/mother's death), for starters...not to mention writing style and other technicalities.

What I love about Sense and Sensibility is the high level of observation that Austen carries throughout the story (until the end, which she wraps up way too quickly and tidily, as usual) mixed with a humorous perspective on people's foibles.  That being said, this is one of her more serious novels, not carried along by witty quips—a deep exploration of dreams, ideals, duty, and expectation.  Reading it at this point in my life, I found it more sad than I previously had.  All of those oddball characters were believable (and sometimes stressful) rather than just silly and entertaining.  But her writing is still seriously enjoyable.
"Elinor was to be the comforter of other in her own distresses, no less than in theirs."
Walsh's writing is nothing like Austen's, and the mood of the story leans toward the magical, but the interesting characters and contemplation of dreams, duty, and grief are as present in this story as in any of Austen's.  I was caught up in the story from the beginning, and never once got irritated by the alternating point-of-view or other writing mechanics.  The themes were deep, while the plot made it a quick read.  I loved finding out the details of how Jazz and Olivia grew up, how their different experiences led them to have very different opinions of their mother's death, and I loved meeting the people they met throughout their journey.
"If you live your whole life hoping and dreaming the wrong things," she said, "what does that mean about your whole life?"
Now...I don't have any sisters.  I thought this was the reason I didn't enjoy reading The Weird Sisters.  But that may not be the case after all.  While sisters certainly have a unique dynamic that I don't have firsthand experience with, I do have firsthand experience being female.  Many of the things that Elinor, Marianne, Jazz, and Olivia felt (insecurities, frustrations) are things that I have felt and can identify with, and that's pretty much what I hope to find in a book: a connection.

[Two things:  First, a big thank you to Random House for giving me an opportunity to read The Moon Sisters and share it with you!  Second, Sense and Sensibility is being counted toward the Back to the Classics Challenge as my 19th Century Classic.]


  1. This book sounds good and I don't think I'm familiar with it already. I love the parallels you pointed out between these two books. And aren't the Belknap editions of those annotated Austen books just gorgeous? I'm collecting them all.

    P. S. You might not have enjoyed The Weird Sisters very much because it wasn't a particularly good book.

    1. I was pleasantly surprised with The Moon Sisters - I've been reading older fiction lately, because the current stuff was leaving me dissatisfied, but this was different.

      Those Belknap editions are beautiful inside and out - I've re-read both Persuasion and S&S in these editions and both experiences have been so good. Northanger Abbey will soon be released - I'm excited for that one!

      (And thank you for validating my feelings on The Weird Sisters!)

  2. I have sisters in spades (do you want one? jk.) A sister is like your best friend in the world. Like a good best friend is brutally honest, and perhaps unlike a best friend, has no problem hurting your feelings in telling you the truth. They also have an inside track to your parents, and will use shared knowledge of you to get to the top of the pile. And then they will smile really sweetly at you, and you realize that you could never live without them.


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