“Sister” by Rosamund Lupton – Art or Craft?

This is my review of Sister by Rosamund Lupton.

This is a page turner, and the twist at the end did not disappoint me as expected. The author is an experienced scriptwriter, which explains the carefully worked out plot and slick crafting. The “voice over” is Beatrice who sustains an intimate imagined musing with Tess, the sister whose disappearance has brought her back hotfoot from a high-powered job and safe planned marriage in the States. The monologue, which explains much about the sisters’ in many ways tragic family life, is inter-cut with accounts of Beatrice’s interviews with “Mr Wright”, a lawyer at the Crown Prosecution Service, who is checking out the details she has obsessively gathered on what has befallen her sister. All this has the makings of a riveting plot. Yet, warning bells ring from the outset, triggered by the way passages clearly meant to be moving are often mawkish, spoiling insightful observations by laying emotion on with a trowel, while dialogues are too often very unnatural. In the second half of the book, by which time I had invested too much effort to “switch off”, the plot details become implausible, and most of the characters seem to talk in the same style – that of the narrator herself. I also noticed the odd “Hitchcock moment”, of the sinister fingers beating on the pane variety, no doubt included as spurious cliffhangers should the book be serialised. Then there are the inevitable (hint of) sex scenes, however unlikely, and, without giving too much away, the arch-villain seems clumsily welded into the story and therefore unconvincing.

This book is selling so well that it obviously appeals to many people – I suspect mostly female readers. I like the way that Beatrice tends to suspect everyone she meets, and how the investigation of her sister’s life brings her to a better understanding of herself, and changes her as a person. But, as with many TV serials, I was left feeling that the novel promises more than it delivers and does not amount to much.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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