24/05/2008

The Sorrow of Sisters (by Wendy K Harris)

I'd never heard of Wendy K Harris until last year, when I was sent one of her books - 'Blue Slipper Bay'- by The Bookbag, for reviewing. I very much enjoyed it, and although it was complete in itself, I realised that it was a sequel, or follow-up, to another book. I was intrigued to know more of the previous story, as well as impressed by the writing, so I put the first novel - 'The Sorrow of Sisters'- on my wishlist and was delighted to receive it for my birthday last month.

I started reading it a couple of days ago, thinking it would last me several days as it's nearly 400 pages. I was wrong. After the first couple of chapters, I could barely put it down. I read it while waiting for my computer to boot, I read it while waiting for jam to set, I read it in between loads of laundry... and finished it this evening.

The main character is Jane, an almost-fifty-year-old novelist who has been experiencing some writers' block. Her husband is an accountant, who's somewhat stressed about his job and their finances, And there's Henry, Jane's father, who's old and frail, and a bit bad-tempered.

Out of the blue, Jane receives a letter saying she has inherited a cottage in the Isle of Wight, which belonged to her Aunt Lillian. Jane has no idea that she had an aunt, so she asks her father... he admits that Lillian was his late wife Victoria's sister, but that they did not have any contact. He refuses to say more. Jane is surprisingly disturbed, and decides to go and visit the cottage for herself.

Meanwhile, an elderly woman called Emmeline is mourning Lillian, and going over the past in her imagination with her, as well as hoping that Jane will arrive...

The book is a very clever mixture of past and present, allowing the reader to stay just one step ahead of Jane as she learns some surprising, sometimes shocking things about her past. She thinks she has discovered what it was that made her parents cast Lillian aside - little realising quite what further revelations are still to come.

The characters are well-drawn, the settings very believable, and the plot so well written that it drew me in almost at once. I kept guessing at the next step, sometimes successfully, sometimes not quite getting there. I didn't relate quite as strongly to the characters as I do to those of authors like Rosamunde Pilcher, but then again this was really plot-driven, with themes of love, loyalty, bigotry and jealousy permeating the novel.

There are one or two traumatic scenes, although nothing explicit; there are some moving passages too, and a positive bitter-sweet ending. All in all, I thought 'the Sorrow of Sisters' was an excellent book, and I'm very pleased to read that there will be a third in the series before too long.

Highly recommended.

Review copyright © Sue's Book Reviews, 24th May 2008. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Wendy K Harris said...

Thank you for that lovely review Sue.
If you post me your address via my website www.wendykharris.com I will send you a copy of Rocken Edge when it is published in a few weeks.

Best wishes
Wendy