Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sister: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton

With a really good thriller novel, sometimes it's not so much the story as the way you tell it that gives it the credibility it needs. In Rosamund Lupton's Sister, the unexpected death of a young 21 year-old woman, Tess, initially promises an interesting but perhaps not exceptional case where her sister attempts to piece together the dead woman's actions and contemplate her state of mind in the days before her death - was it suicide or murder? What makes Sister fascinating reading however is the decision of the author to tell the story not only from the perspective of the dead woman's sister Beatrice, but to do so in the form of an open letter to Tess.

There are several benefits to this approach. On the one hand, it fully captures the sense of helplessness and loss that Beatrice feels. Having been separated by an ocean, Beatrice returns to London from her New York home to try to come to terms with what has happened and piece together what could have happened through her knowledge of her younger sister, relating those thoughts directly to Tess, but also to the prosecuting lawyer in preparation for a trial. This creates a fractured kind of narrative that gives some indication of what is going on in her mind, as well interweaving past and present and lending the intriguing suggestion that, with a court case pending, there is a lot more to uncover.

More than that, it lends immediacy to the writing that also brings you closer to Tess, as you come to understand her relationship with her sister and family, events from the past coming to mind that shed light on her character - small but significant events that lead Beatrice to conclude that she couldn't possibly have taken her own life. How can she convince everyone else that this is the case? In passing then, Sister takes in issues related to women - and different types of women - taking in babies and childbirth, their relationships with families and with men - fathers, husbands and lovers. Actually, it's not even in passing, it's integral to the book and to its success as a crime thriller, the author brilliantly interweaving the story with real issues that do indeed mean life and death to people.

Most significantly, the structure of the novel and the first-person directness is such that it also makes the investigation and revelations genuinely suspenseful, keeping the reader guessing and then surprising them with some remarkable turn of events that make it much more than just a gimmick. This is Rosamund Lupton's first novel, having previously worked as a scriptwriter, but her ability to entertain, probe into characterisation, pace a thriller and find the most effective means of delivering it is remarkably assured, making this a thrilling and ultimately deeply moving novel.
Related Posts with Thumbnails