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The Sister by Poppy Adams
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The Sister

by Poppy Adams

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7587712,240 (3.44)56
  1. 40
    We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Two sisters with a mysterious relationship and dark history together, unreliable narrators, dark, old, rural houses with mysteries of their own... Though the books take different plotlines, they share so many similar elements that people who enjoyed the setting and storytelling of one will likely enjoy the other.… (more)
  2. 31
    The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (hbsweet)
    hbsweet: Sisters with a dark and tangled family history, and startling developments.
  3. 21
    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Bookmarque)
    Bookmarque: A crumbling house, an unreliable narrator, unresolved mysteries and madness. What's not to love?
  4. 10
    The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (starfishian)
  5. 10
    The Language of Others by Clare Morrall (jayne_charles)
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» See also 56 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
Virginia "Ginny" Stone has lived her whole long life in the now-crumbling ancestral mansion in Dorset, about which her mother used to say "Either Victorians were vulgar, or we were very vulgar Victorians." Her only sibling, vivacious Vivian, comes home for the first time in almost 50 years and all the family skeletons fall out of the closet. The sisters were raised by the scientist father who dedicated his life to the study of moths, and the glamorous--then--alcoholic mother, Maud. It doesn't take long to figure out that something is off with the narrator, Ginny.

Every review of this book includes the words and phrases: secrets, moth science, Gothic, unreliable narrator, dysfunctional family.

I enjoyed this book very much and was always happy to pick it up, although, strangely, it took me three weeks to read a book just under 300 pages. But I blame that on my life and not the book.

The Behaviour of Moths was published by Virago Press and nominated for he Costa first book award. The author, Poppy Adams, hasn't published anything since, which is a shame, because I thought she showed great promise here.

My North American copy from another publisher is titled The Sister, which I thought was a terrible choice, but after reading it think it's fitting. But "The Sister" didn't intrigue me at all, so I think the original title was better. YMMV.

Recommended for: Based on reader reviews on LT and GR, most people were "disappointed" with this, or they found there were too many loose ends "not tied up," and finally "too much moth science." I disagree with all of this, but it does appear to be the prevailing opinion, and I did go into this with low expectations, so . . . I feel I'm the only person who thinks this was really good. ( )
  Nickelini | May 22, 2017 |
Lethal lepidopterists, a dysfunctional family, the scent of sherry, and a bit of the gothic. I think one of the former reviews I've read on this book said it best; a lot of readers have complained that they got a lot more moths than answers and, as such, the book was very dissatifying. However, the reviewer went on to say that there are so few answers because our protagonist isn't aware that there needs to be or that there are even questions lurking about in her own familial and personal history. In that way I think the gothic theme of the story is wrapped up very nicely, especially for a debut novel, from the symbolism of the decrepit/vacant in the house and the relationships/secrets held within it.

I found the story to be engrossing and interesting. Definitely worth the read. ( )
  lamotamant | Sep 22, 2016 |
The Sister by Poppy Adams opens with seventy year old Virginia (Ginny), a recluse, waiting for her sister Vivien (Vivi) to return to Bulburrow Court, the decaying family mansion, after being away for nearly fifty years. The novel focuses on the four day period of time when Vivi returns home. Ginny is the narrator and as she reflects about her life a picture of her childhood begins to emerge. Their mother, Maud, is gregarious and often answers for Ginny. Their father, Clive, was a famous lepidopterist and Ginny follows in his foot steps, making the study of moths her life's work.

It becomes clear right at the start that Vivi's visit is going to disrupt Ginny's carefully planned days. It also becomes clear that Ginny is an unreliable narrator and that something is not quite right about her. We know from the start that she is obsessively focused on time. We learn that she has exact rituals for making tea and for making her bed. We learn that she is unable to show emotion or interpret emotion in others.

Ginny also doles out large, obsessive amounts of information about moths - so much that the moths become another character in the book. Ginny tells us that she, like her father, is a world famous lepidopterist. While it didn't bother me, in earlier reviews of The Sister some readers were bothered by the vast amount of information and facts about moths. That may be something to take into account if you think it might annoy you. I felt that it became clear that the information about moths is important to the story and raises questions about the role of biology in a person's actions - is it nature or nurture that dictates our actions.

Adams is a talented writer and did a wonderful job building the suspense. As the present events unfold, details about the past are told in alternating chapters. It soon becomes clear that events may not be exactly as they are presented and there are more questions raised than answers given. A draw back to this is that all the loose ends are not tied up in the end so it requires some speculation on the part of the reader.

I wish some of the questions raised had been answered in this atmospheric Gothic thriller. Basically I enjoyed The Sister right up until the end when I was left feeling a little let down. highly recommended; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/


Quotes:
It’s ten to two in the afternoon and I’ve been waiting for my little sister, Vivi, since one-thirty. She’s finally coming home, at sixty-seven years old, after an absence of nearly fifty years. opening

Did I tell you that Vivien said in her letter she was returning for good? For some final peace, she said, because now, she said, we ought to be keeping each other company for the rest of our lives, rather than dying lonely and alone. Well, I’ll tell you now, I don’t feel lonely and I certainly don’t feel as if I’m dying, but even so I’m glad she’s coming home. Glad, and a little nervous - a surge of apprehension is swelling in my stomach. I can’t help wondering what we’ll talk about after all these years and, I suppose, if I’ll even recognize her. pg. 4

She is late, however. I look at my wristwatch—the digital one on my left wrist. Her letter most specifically read one-thirty and, believe me, it's not my timekeeping that's gone awry. I keep a number of clocks just so I can be sure that, even if one or two let me down, I can always find the correct time. When you live by yourself in a house that you very rarely leave and is even more rarely visited, it's essential that you don't lose track of the time. Every minute lost - if left uncorrected - would soon accumulate to an hour, and then hours, until - as you can imagine - you could easily end up living in a completely erroneous time frame. pg. 4

It was a childhood in perfect balance, so I’m wondering what it was that came along and changed everything. It wasn’t just one thing. There’s rarely a sole cause for the separation of lives. It’s a sequence of events, an inexorable chain reaction where each small link is fundamental, like a snake of upended dominoes. And I’ve been thinking that the very first one, the one you push to start it all off, must have been when Vivi slipped off our bell tower and nearly died, fifty-nine years ago. pg. 5

I wonder what Vivien's left behind in London; I wonder if this is the start of another special bond, like the one we had many years ago. Most of all I wonder why she's decided, finally, to come home. pg. 31

I can mimic the scent of a flower so that a moth will direct itself towards the scent, even if I have made sure that in doing so it goes headlong into a wall and kills itself. Each time each moth will kill itself. It is this constancy that makes them a scientific delight - you do not need to factor in a rogue element of individuality. pg. 55
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
I listened to the book on audio CD. I liked the narrator a lot. At many points I found it slow when it would go into the scientific research of insects too much. I enjoyed the story of the family and especially the sisters. ( )
  lacey.tucker | Mar 10, 2016 |
Ginny has spent her entire life inside the walls of Bulburrow Court, her ancestral home, and followed her father and her mother's family, into lepidoptery, the study of moths. Her sister Vivien left home decades ago, escaping to London, only to return and upset the precious balance and routine that Ginny has created for herself. Their reunion is unsettling and not at all the happy homecoming that Ginny hoped for. Instead it brings to the surface long forgotten memories, of their childhood, of their parents, of the secret that they shared with only one other.

My feelings on this novel are a bit muddled. The part I expected to like the least, the copious details regarding the behavior of moths, actually proved to be the most interesting. It's very clear that the author did her research, and I learned a lot about moths that I never knew. I'll admit I always thought they were not much more than annoying nocturnal butterflies, but it is clear to me now that while incredibly simple creatures, there is more to a moth than I ever expected.

On the other hand, the story itself which takes place over the course of a long weekend, was very flawed. The only character whom the author seemed to have spent any time developing was Ginny. As the story was narrated entirely from Ginny's perspective, I would expect to know far more about her than anyone else, but I wanted to know more about the others who stories were told. None of the characters, Ginny included, were particularly sympathetic to this reader, and I can't say I much cared what happened to them. The only character I liked at all was Arthur, and while his role was pivotal, it was also very small.

The plot line itself could have been very interesting if handled properly but Ms. Adams was heavy-handed with her foreshadowing and you could see almost from the very beginning what was going to happen. The end itself was handled too quickly and there were too many unanswered questions. In all, I'd say there was a ton of potential but in end this book just didn't deliver. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
The plot clanks cheerfully along, twisting and teasing, and the writing exerts a certain spell. Ginnie's confidences are debatable, a smoke-screen through which we discern the writer's manipulative hand. This is the book's real fascination, watching the author play her mischievous game of bluff with the reader. Purple passages concerning moth pathology are laid as bait to lead us up the garden path, a stomach-turning sauce for the plot extravagance. The novel is a divertimento on a mothy and insubstantial theme.
 
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Epigraph
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To Will Barter
First words
It's ten to two in the afternoon and I've been waiting for my little sister, Vivi, since one-thirty.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Published as The Sister in the US and as The Behaviour of Moths in the UK.
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Book description
From her lookout on the first floor, Ginny watches and waits for her younger sister to return to the crumbling mansion that was once their idyllic childhood home. Vivien has not set foot in the house since she left, forty-seven years ago; Ginny, the reclusive moth expert, has rarely ventured outside it. But with Vivien's arrival, dark, unspoken secrets surface. Told in Ginny's unforgettable voice, this debut novel tells a disquieting story of two sisters and the ties that bind - sometimes a little too tightly.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307268160, Hardcover)

“This lyrical and haunting story of two sisters, their troubling past, and the terrible secrets they each want buried will stay with you long after you close the book.”
—Harlan Coben

The Sister is a taut, tense tale of the ties that bind—sometimes a little too tightly.”
—Karin Slaughter

From her lookout in the crumbling mansion that was her childhood home, Ginny watches and waits for her younger sister to arrive. Vivien has not set foot in the house since she left nearly fifty years ago; the reclusive Ginny has rarely ventured out, retreating into the precise routines that define her days, carrying on her father’s solitary work studying moths.

As the sisters revisit their shared past, they realize that their recollections differ in essential and unsettling ways. Before long, the deeply buried resentments that have shaped both their lives rise to the surface, and Vivien’s presence threatens to disrupt Ginny’s carefully ordered world.

Told in Ginny’s unforgettable voice, this subtle and chilling debut novel tells an extraordinary story of how families are capable of undoing themselves—especially in the name of love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:47 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"From her lookout in the crumbling mansion that was her childhood home, Ginny watches and waits for her younger sister to arrive. Vivien has not set foot in the house since she left nearly fifty years ago; the reclusive Ginny has rarely ventured out, retreating into the precise routines that define her days, carrying on her father's solitary work studying moths." "As the sisters revisit their shared past, they realize that their recollections differ in essential and unsettling ways. Before long, the deeply buried resentments that have shaped both their lives rise to the surface, and Vivien's presence threatens to disrupt Ginny's carefully ordered world." "Told in Ginny's unforgettable voice, this debut novel tells a story of how families are capable of undoing themselves - especially in the name of love."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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