The Good Sister by Maggie Christensen was a book I was so looking forward to reading (thank you to the author for providing my reading e-copy): from the moment I “met” the author (you can catch up on our November interview here) I had the feeling I might just have come across an author whose writing I could love. And I was so delighted to find that I was absolutely right…
Two Isobels. A lifetime of regret. A love that spans the years
In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for. Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.
In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood, and she feels overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control, and almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.
What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future?
To be honest, the description of this book had hooked me before I’d even read the first page – and once I did, it was like being enveloped in a warm furry blanket and I felt quite bereft every time I had to put the book down. I’m always a complete pushover for dual time stories, but I particularly enjoy it when both threads are as engaging as they are in this book – there’s a smoothness about the transition between past and present that never once had me feeling “wrenched” from the story I was following, I enjoyed both, and became equally emotionally attached to both Isobel and Bel.
The present day story was enhanced so much by the fact that Bel was so easy to identify with – in terms of both age and life experience – and I loved reading about her attraction to the rather gorgeous Matt at a point when she’d thought she was beyond such things. The whole thread is beautifully handled – the tentative early steps, the doubts, the obstacles, the family reaction – and I smiled along with Bel’s ailing aunt, encouraging the relationship from the sidelines and seeing her careful planning working out.
Isobel’s own story – the love of her life and the sadness surrounding it, the impact of the approach of war and the moral standards of the time, the family relationships and experiences – was totally engrossing and very moving, wholly authentic in its historical detail and compelling to read. The links between the stories were beautifully handled – I really liked the use of Isobel’s written account as a device to move the story’s timing smoothly backwards and forwards – and I also thoroughly enjoyed the story’s backdrop, the strong sense of setting and location.
This is a book full of warmth and love and relationships and echoes of the past that make you smile while bringing a tear to your eye, and one that I really didn’t want to end. Just wonderful.
About the author
After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them.
From her native Glasgow, Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!
She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where she selects and delivers books to the housebound. A member of Queensland Writer’s Centre, RWA, ALLi, and a local critique group, Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks.