Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Weird Sisters


The Weird Sisters

My experience with school gym class was amusingly stereotypical. I well and truly hated it. I can still see myself, standing in the freshly mown green of a ballfield, calmly watching as a fat round softball rudely crashed into the daydream I was lost inside and rolled past me as if in slow motion. My lack of rapid retrieval caused our side to lose the game. Ah, well. See, my problem - other than that daydreaming thing - was the total lack of a competitive nature. If we won, well, good for us. If the other team won, well, good on them. It just didn’t really matter to me. This affliction was brought on, as I see it, by an absence of sisters. For as an only child, I had no one I needed to outrun or outdo - no rival to battle for my parents’ attentions. Exquisitely happy in my solitude, I relished my role as observer, and that is not exactly a highly prized quality in a softball player.

Having had none, sisters have consequently been a source of fascination for me since childhood. I would sit around the dinner tables of my friends and their sisters, in sharp, covert study of the interactions they shared - a pint-sized, ponytailed Margaret Mead on a journey inside the culture of sisterhood. I caught their sidelong glances and barely sheathed barbs - the fierce loyalties, deep love, and contention. I watched as they sabotaged each other and defended each other, learning all the while that theirs was a lifelong bond as curious as it was indestructible. I pondered the purported personality traits dictated by birth order. Were they accurate, or nothing more than myth? Was the oldest always the solid over-achiever, the youngest always the most beloved? And was the middle one doomed to forever be waving her arms just to be noticed between them?

I studied the March sisters, the Dashwood’s and Bennet’s. Read all I could on the Mitford’s, the Bouvier’s and Bronte’s. I spent time time in Ballybeg, Ireland with the five Mundy sisters of the poignant film, Dancing at Lughnasa. I wandered the streets of New York with Hannah and hers.

And now I have just finished a new book that took me on yet another tantalizing expedition into this exotic landscape of sisterhood. The Weird Sisters is writer Eleanor Brown’s first novel and it’s a captivating read. She has to be either a gifted clairvoyant or a sister herself, for Ms. Brown writes with such sparkling lucidity on the relationships between sisters, giving the reader a back stage pass to the complex interplay between them and decoding their secret language in such a way as to allow passage even to those who, like myself, are totally unfamiliar with the landscape. The sisters in this novel, Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia, are the daughters of a Shakespearean professor whose love of the Bard is so all-encompassing that he not only named his three daughters accordingly, but also possesses a bewildering tendency to quote the great writer in every single conversation he has. With armloads of painful secrets accompanying them, the sisters have returned home to care for their ailing mother and immediately find themselves falling back into familiar roles they are no longer certain they actually want to play.
With a voice both unique and engaging, Eleanor Brown has reawakened my fascination with sisters as well as my admiration for a story well told. If you have sisters yourself, no doubt you’ll be nodding your head in recognition on practically every page. If, like me, you have none, then I encourage you to open this new book and allow Ms. Brown to lead you into their world. I know you’ll enjoy the journey.


31 comments:

  1. I, too, was an only child, sort of, well, right up until I was 12 when my sister was born. 12 years is too wide a gap to experience any of the typical sibling interaction between young sisters. I was more of a handy baby sitter. She was more of a cute little doll that ate, and cried, and wet her pants....just like one of those "real" dolls you could get.

    She was only 8 when I got married and left home. So in many ways we were both only children.

    It was one of the greatest discoveries of my life when I realized that my 20 year old pharmacy student little sis was a real, live person with opinions, humor, loyalty, smarts, and she was my SISTER, at last! What a gift! Now she lives 3 states away and I rarely see her. So I'm back to feeling like an only child again....an old only child! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I,m reading it right now and agree with you said :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a book which has got such positive reviews and I like your picture very very much!

    ReplyDelete
  4. A recent study in the US has found that only children are better off because of the lack of bullying at home.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This sounds like another excellent book. Thanks Pamela.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sitting already on my shelf.....we are three sisters!
    Great to read your review!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I do have two sisters and every Sunday when we get together for lunch our husbands cannot figure out why in the world we talk so much, or how we can finish each other's thoughts. They are my best friends. I'm looking forward to reading this book. You've done an excellent review.

    ReplyDelete
  8. An 'only' here too. And also a school gym class hater. Hockey, outside, in the Scottish winter, in only shorts and a T-shirt (somehow tracksuits hadn't been invented in 1970's Moray)... "Run, that girl on the wing". Er, apart from keeping warm, why on earth should I run? No-one in their right mind was going to pass the ball to me.

    Thanks for the tip about the book.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have noted it down Pamela.
    I had a sister but as she was twenty two years older than me it hardly counted - but there was still a competitive spirit between us so I think you are quite possibly right in your deductions about sisters.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hello Pamela

    Will be buying the book after your great review! I was not a fan of gym class--to be honest I hated the class!!

    I have one sister and we never had any competion between us--I am glad for that.

    Have a great week-end.

    Best
    Tracy :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great review! I love how you linked the material and its appeal to your personal narrative. I'm going to download a sample chapter onto my Kindle as you aren't the first to recommend this book to me. The painting you chose works well for illustration.

    I have a brother but not a sister, but we were still competitive as kids. I was not a sporty girl either but that was due to my lack of ball skills. In horseback riding, I preferred a gallop on the trails to a horse show by far. The strange thing was I was very competitive at academics, always striving for the top grade. What I did out of school needed to balance that so I could unwind.

    I am intrigued by the Macbeth reference in the title - the weird sisters was what Shakespeare called the witches.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Your account of school sports made me chuckle!

    I had a sister, sadly lost to MS, she was ten years older so more of a second mother when I was little and when I was grown up she was a friend. The book must be good if you say so, I shall look it out.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I JUST started this last night!!! My mother gave it to me after my sister passed it along to her. Small world!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Another one here who hated as kinds of competition -- and was horrified at the mere thought of gym or sports. I prefered to read quietly and observe others -- just like you! I have always found "family dynamics" fascinating -- and trying to guess the roles of each child in thei family structure. My sister was the one who hated any conflict; my brother (a true middle child) was The Outsider and I was The Court Jester. The roles of my DH's brothers: the oldest one was "The Rebel"; DH was "The Golden Child"; the next brother was "The Outsider" and finally his youngest brother was indeed "The Baby." Even after all of these years -- when the brothers get together -- their old roles appear at the dining table. Interesting indeed!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Just wanted to add if you like you can read about my currant booklist here:
    http://victorialifestyle.blogspot.com/2011/03/more-books.html
    Happy weekend!
    xoxo
    Victoria

    ReplyDelete
  16. Just wanted to add if you like you can read about my currant booklist here:
    http://victorialifestyle.blogspot.com/2011/03/more-books.html
    Happy weekend!
    xoxo
    Victoria

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have heard about this book from a friend, who recommended it. I have four sisters and I love books that explore relationships between siblings. Thanks for sharing your review of this book. Can't wait to read it!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I was exactly the same during school sports and games! I have a step sister 10 years older than me so we never really had a proper 'sister' relationship - we are better friends now we are older! The books sounds really interesting I must look for it at the library:)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Dear Pamela, I'm an only child too but I was always surrounded with cousins and friends.

    The book sounds wonderful, I will definitely get a copy. I'm fascinated by the same sisters as you and I will also get myself a copy of Dancing at Lughnasa which I've never seen either.

    Have a wonderful weekend and please give Edward an extra hug from me xx

    ReplyDelete
  20. This sounds wonderful. Judging from many of these comments, it's a must-read.

    Can I just say, I love the pictures in your side bar, absolutely beautiful.

    Have a good weekend, CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
  21. A great review Pamela! I have two sisters and trust me, you don't want to get me started. I am very curious about this book. It is the first I've heard of it. I am off to explore but before I go...the gym class...ugh...I can relate. Creative pursuits were so much more interesting and a better use of my time :)

    Jeanne xx

    ReplyDelete
  22. Loved your review. I'm downloading it for my relax in a bubble bath later. It will be the highlight of my day.
    Oh, and I have three girlies. They are all so different and beautiful in their own ways. I always prayed for a little sister, so when 4 brothers were born beneath me, I gave up!! Little did I know, they were still floating out there.
    Best,
    Liz

    ReplyDelete
  23. Oh, I forgot. Will you let me know about the three girls in the painting?
    Best,
    Liz

    ReplyDelete
  24. Love the title of the book, Pamela.
    My sisters (2, sadly only one living) and I must have been even weirder in that we didn't (and still don't) compete...merely support and inspire.

    Like you, and perhaps because of this lack of competition at home, I lack the competitive spirit also.

    What I have been left with, and I believe blessed with, is a deep love of my sisters and sister-friends (as Maya Angelou calls them) and the more beautiful, successful and happy they are the more I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  25. You have me intrigued, Pamela. I do have a sister, two and one half years younger than I, and we still resort to our roles of childhood from time-to-time. Though she sometimes drives me nuts, and I surely do to her, my heart would break into a thousand pieces if I were to be without her.

    "The Weird Sister" is now on my list, with thanks to you.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I was an only child - reckon it is what has given me my fiesty spirit! A definate must be - will note it down for the mobile library tomorrow.
    Dx

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm an only daughter too. Sounds like a great read, it's on my list now!

    Nancy

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hi Pamela

    Thanks for visiting my blog and yes I have now finished "The Finkler Question" and although Part Two was better than Part One I cannot really say I enjoyed it. The main character was very hard to like and his actions seemed to me to be very contrived.

    However you have tempted me with "The Weird Sisters" and I will search it out in my usual bookshop haunts. I have 10 days away in my country home in Spain over Easter and always like to take a good selection of reads with me. [If you are curious about the place in Spain see my web site www.vista-alegre.net it really is a little piece of heaven.]

    By the way I do have one sister and she is the elder by 5 years. Although we are both now grandmothers when we are together we do seem to fall into the childhood pattern of big sister being the boss!

    ReplyDelete
  29. While not an only...I am an only girl squashed between two brothers...ached for a sister myself...as does MY only daughter who falls after three brothers!

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'm an only child too! And I was also horrible at gym class! I'll have to read this book, I love to read about siblings because I will never truly understand the dynamic.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I ran to buy the book. Who's is this beautiful painting?

    ReplyDelete

I love to read your comments! Each and every one!