Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke
I bought this in Tesco as part of their 2 for £7 deals as I had read a review on here that made it sound like my sort of book.
This was the debut novel for this author and it became a Richard and Judy Summer read for 2013. Strangely in America it has a different name "Swimming in the Night", heaven knows why as the English title is mentioned in the book.
The author enjoys travelling and has spent many winters travelling with her professional windsurfing husband. To me it was obvious by the places she picked for the sisters to travel to in the book.
There are two sisters who were really close but recently there has been some tension. The younger sister Mia is rather reckless and adventurous and goes off travelling. Mia sadly dies in Bali and Kate cannot believe that she has committed suicide as the death certificate and report state.
Kate sets off quite uncharacteristically to follow Mia's footsteps by reading Mia's diary as she goes along.
What happened to Mia, where did she go and why did Finn, her travelling companion not go with her to Bali?
I found both Kate and Mia very believable and likeable in very different ways. I completely understood their sisterly relationship and they closeness as well as their relationship strains as I had three sisters !
In fact all the characters were well created and at times I warmed towards them and at others times I wanted to give one particular character a damn good slap.
It was interesting to have the same journey taken by both sisters and how they reacted to the places. Obviously Kate was finding the journey more difficult as she was trying to find out why Mia would have committed suicide. She was concerned as they had had a bit of an argument on the phone the day before Mia's death and was afraid that was something to do with Mia's death.
I liked the way the story followed Kate in her journey and by Kate reading Mia's journal as she went along we also learn about Mia's journey too. The chapters alternate between Mia's journal and Kate's journey.
Kate's journey is very uncharacteristic and initially she finds it hard as she has left her sensible fiancée behind and feels guilty over Mia' suspected suicide.
This book was really well written and is a really good story. It starts as a sort of travel journal but at the same time it is a sort of mystery as we try with Kate to find out what happened to Mia. There is also romance involved for both girls in different places and times. It is also a relationship story between Kate and Mia, Kate and her fiancée, Mia and Finn and Mia and the surfer and Kate and Finn. Relationships are always complicated and in this story we feel the depth of each relationship and how it impinges or changes the relationship between the others.
The travel journal and descriptions of the places made the book come alive for me. The places I knew myself were described as I knew them and those I don't know seemed believable and made the story more interesting.
I really enjoyed this story and reading about the girls and their experiences and how these changed them as they went along their journeys. Kate really developed as a character through following Mia's journey; she learned a lot about Mia and a very big secret too. She learned a lot about her different relationships and indeed this changed how she felt about a lot of things.
As Kate travelled and read Mia's journal she also thought about their lives when they were younger and things they had done together and their family. She found out family secrets which Mia had also discovered as she followed in Mia's footsteps.
This book was interesting, well written and quite tense at times. I really didn't want to put it down and found that I read it very quickly in less than a week just in bed so not long. If I was the sort to sit and read during the day it would have been read in a day I feel.
This is a great, easy and interesting read. A real page turner with tension and mystery as well as believable characters who you come to really care about.
I would thoroughly recommend this book as a light, easy read but well written story that I found I couldn't wait to get back to each night.
Kate is as sensible, focused and down to earth as her sister Mia is reckless and unsettled, so it's no surprise that it's Mia who leaves London behind to go traveling. With dreams of seeing the USA, Australia and beyond, Mia sets off excitedly with her best friend Finn, but this once in a lifetime trip tragically becomes just that as some months later Mia is found dead in Bali, an apparent suicide plunge. With her life thrown into turmoil and unable to get past the things they said, and didn't say, to each other when Mia was alive, Kate makes a rather Mia-like decision to leave it all behind too. Armed with Mia's travel journey, she sets off to retrace her sister's steps, stop by stop, to try and work out what Mia was going through, and what ultimately lead to her death.
On reading the blurb I was excited to get into this book, which I expected to be of the Emily Barr school of writing. I wasn't disappointed as this turned into a mesmerising travelogue, alternating Mia's and Kate's experiences of the same places. Littered with memories of their childhood, this story builds on what it means to be a sister, made all the more important because the girls' family background means they are now all the other one has.
This story is lots of things. Part travel, part memoir, part mystery, part romance. The answer to what really happened to Mia is kept hanging until the last page, but every stop, every destination along the way adds a little to the puzzle of what ultimately brought her to be on a cliff top in Bali that night. In the best possible way, this book is about the journey, not the destination, as you know from the start how it's going to end. It could have been done differently - Mia could have disappeared rather than been found dead, perhaps - but I really didn't feel anything was lacking as I sped through the pages, following Kate as she followed in Mia's footsteps.
Though a reluctant traveller, the trip does for Katie what it did for Mia, changing her into a different person. The transformation is sudden in places, but mixed in with the grief and betrayal that emerge, it seems real. Also real are the wonderful descriptions of the places the girls go - some I know and can attest to, others exist vividly in my mind now from what is described here.
I relished reading this book and I enjoyed the writing style enough to want to read the author's subsequent works, even if they don't feature the all-round winner that is exotic travel. It had a lovely flow and the characters worked well together, even if this is very much a girls' story with the boys just blending into the background.
On the Richard and Judy Summer Reading List 2013
Out now in paperback and on Kindle
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk