Sunday, 20 February 2011

Sisters (not) doing it for themselves

Yesterday's book club saw one of the best discussions (and venues) we've had in a long time - well done Rachel. We met at Persephone Books on Lamb's Conduit Street - and talked about They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple.
'Pattern of Anemones', a 1935 printed cotton crepe dress fabric 

We all thought it a good book, though didn't all like it. Geoffrey is awful and destroys Charlotte; Vera is vapid and exploits Brian - and the cruelty to children (and dog) is shocking. Lucy is good, marries a good man, and does her best to help her sisters and nieces. Although the outcomes can be predicted from early in the book, this isn't a classical tragedy - all of the characters are culpable for failing to act when they have moments of insight and self-awareness. I think it would have been better with a bit more light and nuance, and a bit less authorial commentary, but it's eminently readable and very human - we follow the narration through each character's viewpoints and gain insight and empathy for their position. And the more I reflect on the book, the more internal echos and structural patterns I see. 

And we talked - about families, telling the truth to siblings and looking after children; about problems in relationships and whether we'd express concerns to friends, or see any echoes in our own lives; and about blame and responsibility.


And we made it to the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone, the Lion Hunt and the amazing table of pills in the Living and Dying room. Superb.

1 comment:

  1. How lovely to attend a Persephone Talk! This novel sounds quite complex and conflicting. I will be reading my first Whipple (High Wages)next week for the Persephone Reading Weekend. Thanks for the review.