Review – Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

By | July 27, 2013

I really wanted to try this one – a few years ago I very much enjoyed Curtis Sittenfeld’s very clever American Wife, the fictional account of a First Lady with more than a passing resemblance to Laura Bush. Her other two books – Prep and The Man Of My Dreams haven’t made it off my bookshelves yet. But there was something about the synopsis of this one, the twins with a special gift, that really attracted me.  

“Sisterland” is the sign on the twins’ bedroom door as they’re growing up. The identical twins, Daisy and Violet Shramm, are rather forced into their own world: after a traumatic birth experience, their mother withdraws from life into her bedroom, and their father is equally disengaged.  Very different in character – a difference that increases as they grow older – the girls discover they have a psychic gift. Daisy (who changes her name to Kate in an attempt to be normal, and leave behind the “Daze” of her youth) settles into life with her professor husband and her two young children.  Violet lives life to the full and finally earns her living as a medium, achieving a measure of success in finding a missing child.  The turning point of the novel comes when Violet predicts an earthquake will hit their home town of St Louis on 16 October, and a media circus follows, along with other far-reaching consequences.

Kate tells the story, but it alternates between present day and the earlier lives of the twins, with some wonderful descriptions of what life is like in small town America. As the narrator, Kate portrays herself as the constant voice of reason, the stabilising influence, the exemplary mother and child, but the flaws in her character are beautifully revealed and portrayed. Violet is magnificent – the embarrassing relative you wish you could hide, and the source of most of the humour in the book as you watch her behaviour. The relationship between the girls is beautifully drawn, a true love/hate with bonds that can’t be broken. The psychic part – the “senses” – is done with a light touch, with a lovely twist towards the end of the book.

It’s a beautifully executed novel, full of the small dramas that make life what it is, all set against the minutiae of day-to-day existence. I really enjoyed it.

My thanks to netgalley and Transworld for the advance reading e-copy. This book was published in the UK on 6th June in hardcover and for Kindle: the paperback will be published in January 2014 by Black Swan.

2 thoughts on “Review – Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

  1. Lovely Treez

    I read this one about a month ago but I am so behind with reviews thanks to our long school hols! I enjoyed it but not as much as American Wife. I didn't really click with the characters. Must hurry up And collect my thoughts on it. 🙂

  2. Anne Williams

    I empathise with the need to collect your thoughts Treez – I still have eight other reviews to catch up on too!

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