Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Story Sisters | Alice Hoffman

I just finished this remarkable book. It packs quite a punch and delivers it in a beautiful style. I was a bit apprehensive given it is a little bit Gothic and deals with child abuse, but it does both in an understated way so that we capture detail out of the corner of our eyes rather than fully in the face.

The Story sisters of the title are three girls growing up on the north east coast of the USA. They are Elv, Claire and Meg and they are very close in age and have a very close relationship in which they create a secret language. They live in a big old house with a huge tree outside their attic bedroom. Also they have a French Grandmother so they spend their summers in Paris which adds a gorgeous European old world touch to the story and becomes very  important at the end.

Into this idyllic childhood steps a teacher who entices Claire into his car. Elv sees this happen, senses danger and yanks Clair out of the car and goes in her stead. The abuse is never graphically stated but it changes Elv and the whole family's life for ever. Various kinds of personal tragedy follows the girls in their teen years. Elv becomes an addict and absconder, and is taken to a rehab centre. Claire and Meg try and make sense of the separateness they feel from her and each other after that day. Meg is never told about what happens and the secrecy of the event really hurts the family, as mother is never told either.

I was really taken by this book, the light hand which describes the story intrigues and reveals little by little the depth of love that can happen between siblings and within a family.
Hoffman has written many novels and on the strength of this one I will investigate her other ones. Well worth a read.
The Story Sisters
Buy at Fishpond.co.nz

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