Saturday, 1 July 2017

#BloodSisters #JaneCorry #Review

Blood Sisters

Three little girls. One good. One bad. One dead.

Well if that doesn't make you want to put up this book, nothing will! And isn't the cover equally eye-catching!

Looking at the titles coming out at the moment, sisters seems to be a big theme this summer with lots of novels choosing to explore this relationship. Taking sisters as the key characters allows the author to write about family dynamics and explore the differences and contrasts between two children that have grown up under the same parenting but may have been affected in different ways. Corry has chosen a fascinating relationship in her novel and a fascinating dynamic to explore between two sisters.

At 455 pages, this is a long book but as with her first novel, My Husband's Wife, Corry doesn't make it feel as though it is 455 pages. It's an engaging read. It gives Corry a chance to really push her characters to their limits, to really throw everything she can at them, to raise the stakes as well as the tension, suspense and excitement.

Blood Sisters is a complex tale that keeps developing, growing more and more layers, finding further complications and about characters who reveal more and more depth and conflict with each chapter. I enjoyed being part of their lives for so long and really feeling as if I had been on a huge journey of self discovery with them as both Alison and Kitty learn to come to terms with what happened in the past. It's great to become fully immersed in the lives of the protagonists and get to know them so well.

The use of alternate voices is always a powerful structural device and a great way of adding intrigue and suspense to a novel. I do like a novel with alternate narratives. I also like a novel when it isn't immediately clear who the second voice might belong to and how it might fit with the rest of the story - which is what happens right at the beginning in Blood Sisters. Even when it becomes clear, the voices are so different, both so well evoked and vivid, that the reader is hooked trying to see how the stories will converge. It also really helps keep a good balance and prevent Alison's story from becoming too overwhelming or bleak.

Initially I felt I related to Alison more. She's an art teacher and seemingly fine - although we all know better than that these days, and it isn't long before her anxieties, fears and suggestion of a dark secret buried in the past reveal themselves.......

However, as the novel continued I actually had a lot of affection for Kitty. Kitty, mentally disabled and unable to talk, is a captivating character. Corry has been ambitious in making one of the main characters physically and mentally disabled, suffering from memory loss and unable to function outside of the home in which she lives. But it works. I found the fact that we hear Kitty's internal thoughts which are caustic, sarcastic and sometimes obscene, very effective. Every time we think she has 'spoken', the characters around her only hear babble or a dribbled spiel of nonsense and every  time I was shocked by the difference between the internal voice of Kitty and how she is really seen and heard by those around her. It is hugely effective. It is challenging, but also brings humour. Kitty's responses are echoed by the reader on many occasions and she is a thought provoking character who raises questions about care, prejudice and quality of life. It also massively raises the stakes in terms of dramatic tension. Kitty is such a huge contrast with Alison's apparently more measured and rational voice that it was a great dynamic and for me, made the novel truly engaging.

I was impressed with the thoughtful level of detail in Corry's description of Kitty. It must have been a challenge to present one side of the character to the reader and yet at the same time, show the reality of her condition to the reader. Kitty provokes an emotional response from the reader. She can be violent, unpredictable, dangerous and harmful which puts the reader in an interesting position as we consider the issues of blame, accountability, guilt and empathy raised in the story.

Gradually the relationship between the two narratives becomes clearer and Corry strikes a fine balance of edge-of-your-seat tension as the events in the past are revealed and the complex relationship between the sisters are exposed as well as a need to find out how the characters are going to navigate their way through their dilemmas and controversial choices. Corry doesn't shy away from placing Kitty and Alison in testing conditions and doesn't shy away from throwing more and more at them. There is a lot to contend with in this novel but Corry manages the different threads very well, the convergence of the past, present and two narrative voices is brought together seamlessly and pacing of the storytelling is spot on.

I thought the choice to place Alison in a prison was fascinating. Not only does it immediately raise the tension, it also places both characters in an institution that tests and challenges them. Kitty maybe "locked in" her own head, "locked out" of the past, and Alison is more metaphorically "locked in" the past and the prison. I also liked the idea that Alison sees both sides of prison life and thought Corry had some interesting things to say about punishment, revenge and the judicial system. The settings and locations used in this novel add a sense of uniqueness and originality to a family noir thriller.

There were a few moments that I felt were slightly too coincidental but to be fair, they are later explained and I was satisfied that things were not as contrived as they first appeared. As I have said already, Corry is able to expertly manage several threads, characters, plot lines and themes, knitting them altogether in something compelling and unputdownable.

Although this is a long novel, although there are an enormous amount of things going on, although there is a dual narrative and time shifting, although both the main characters are complex and troubled, this novel is very readable. There is some imaginative writing and I was caught up in Alison's narrative until the very last page. Corry keeps us reading with hints, suggestions, flashbacks and not only a need to find out what happened to the girls all those years ago, but also how they are going to deal with the repercussions facing them today. Anyone who has a sister, has had issues with friendships at school, known jealousy, or sibling rivalry will enjoy this novel - or anyone who likes a good, engrossing story that you can lose yourself in for a while!

I would recommend this book.

Blood Sisters is published on 29th June by Penguin.

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk

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