Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld

Why I read it: Slate Review

Podcast: Writers on Writing

Brow: Solidly middlebrow

Summary: Identical twins Violet and Daisy have always had 'the senses,' an ability to foresee future events. Daisy yearns for a normal life and does all she can to distance herself from her powers, refusing to acknowledge the messages they send. She grows up to lead a conventional life, marrying a chemistry and becoming a stay-at-home mother to two children. Violet, on the other hand, embraces her capabilities and becomes a medium. She is also her sister's opposite in many ways, she never marries and declares herself a lesbian in her 30s. And there you have the fundamental tension of twins - a reflection you can't control. Then in 2009, Violet predicts that an earthquake will hit sometime soon, throwing Daisy's - who renames herself Kate at university - life into chaos. Suddenly her sister is everywhere, her husband, as a scientist, is furious. Then, to make matters worse, her own powers kick in again with a specific prediction.

What makes it good: I think any woman who has a sister that's relatively close in age has felt the same tensions as the Schramm twins. With my own younger sister, it often felt like she was defining herself in opposition to me: I like to read, she hates books; I loath sports, she's athletic and outdoorsy, and so on. We don't live very close and so don't see each other much, but I suspect that if we spent as much time together as the characters in this book, we'd also find ourselves fighting as much, and in the same ways, as Kate and Violet: at one point Violet explodes at Kate's mothering, Kate is exasperated when her sister refuses to help her corral her two children during an emergency. In other words, psychic twin powers aside, these two sisters could be any of us.

Recommended: Absolutely.

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