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I haven't heard of Emily Barr before this book, and this is the first of her books which I have read, other books you may have heard of are:
and Out of my Depth
After reading this book, I will definitely be reading more books by Barr.
Helen lives in Bordeaux, France, with her mother & father, who are rich wine makers, and also with her 15 yr old brother, Tom. Helen is 20, and fresh out of schooling. She has never really got on with her parents, well her mother inparticular, and feels they don't "love" her. Helen has gone so far as to move out into a small cottage on their vineyard, where she lives alone, with nobody but her brother for company- he is her best...and only friend. Helen is an outcast, she was never liked in school, and even in her family she feels an outcast.
She spends her days rummaging through her mothers cupboards looking for anything which may be of interest. And one day she finds just that. Her mothers little secret.
She and Tom have a sister, from their mothers previous marriage, they have never heard anything about this marriage or this woman, Elizabeth Greene, who is now 37. Elizabeth was born in Brighton, and Mary, her mother had left her with her father, and run away to go traveling, ending up in France, remarrying and living a lie.
Helen decides she must find her sister, and heads off to London, when she thinks she has found the woman who is to be her saviour.
Meanwhile back in London, Lizzie is a 37 year old woman, with her fair share of problems. Her boyfriend of 10 years has just left her for a fresh faced...boy...and now after a one night stand with a pre-op transexual, Rosa, finds herself alone, and pregnant. Making friends with Helen on a baby forum site, she feels she has someone to talk to, but when she turns up in her home town, Lizzie can't seem to shake her and her weird ways.
Helen's plan is to ruin Liz's life, make it so bad she has to come back to France with her and finally her family will be re-aquainted and everyone will love her again. She doesn't tell Liz who she is, and makes friends with her, and even ends up living with her.
But will she end up losing control of her life, will her plan go awry when Liz starts looking at her in that strange way? With twists and turns around every corner, the book really keeps you on your toes all the way from the first page through to the last page. And you will be guessing and guessing right up until the end and even then you won't know whats happening.
With alternating chapters from Helen and Liz's perspective with shorter interludes from Mary giving us insight into the past, we get 3 angles on the story.
Helen: Helen is very hard to work out, and get your head around. She is very strange, and doesn't seem to know how to act in the real world, which is maybe a result of been an outcast, but she ends up giving out the complete wrong impression of herself by trying to do right by everybody else.
As a reader we know that she is only trying to make people like her, that she wants Liz, Matt, her parents, everybody, like her, but by doing so, she is making herself look like a weirdo. We can feel her frustration when people don't like her and react how they do to her as she is so clueless that it's because of the things she does that they feel like that, and if she just acted like herself they would love her for her!
Liz seems pretty normal, her life is mad and crazy and it's easy to see why she gets so frustrated. We feel for her all the way through the book, everything seems to go wrong for her (little does she know that her so called friend Helen is at the end of most of the things bad in her life!). She is always making bad choices and decisions, but we know it's all going to work out for her in the end...don't we?!
She is a very believable character, and she can easily be perceived as a real person. ALl through the book we know things that Liz doesn't know, about Helen and about her past, and we just want to scream to her about what is happening. She is too trusting as a person and that get's her into alot of trouble.
I bought this book thinking it was a chick lit book, it seemed like it was going to be from the blurb, and I like a good chick lit to read before bed, but I was surprised to find the book is more like a drama. Unlike chick lits, the storyline is very deep, it doesn't have the typical conventions of a chick lit book (the comedy, romance side), and is infact quite deep.
The storyline could have been made very girly, and romancy. If it had the book would no way have been as interesting as it infact is. The storyline is very serious, and yuo feel it could have some cyncial and grizzly ending.
I adored the book, it made such a difference to the usual girly nonsense I read and although I love my chick lit, this made for a very pleasant change. The story isn't at all predictable, and as I said earlier, at every corner there is a new shock and surprise which we don't expect.
The story is very tragic really in everyway. Helen hax to put up with a familt who don't love her, and the story of Mary is heartbreaking all the way through, the fact she had these feelings about baby Elizabeth and nobody helped her through it, instead she had no choice but to run away and leave her child. The last few chapters of the book had me reaching for the tissues and sobbing into my pillow when everything comes together in a huge finale.
The ending definitely does the rest of the book justice and really has the shock factor, and the use of an epilogue is excellent.
If you like chick lit, but sometimes feel you want a little something extra, then this book is for you. At 342 pages long, it's the perfect length for bedtime reading or for your holidays!
As a fan of Emily Barr's previous novel's especially Backpack I was delighted when I found a copy of this one in my local charity shop and I have been engrossed ever since.
The Plot :
Helen is a 20 year old girl living in a gorgeous vineyard in France with her french father and English mother, neither of whom she is particularly close to. Helen is a quiet girl who's only friend is her younger brother Tom, who goes with Helen to her mothers room one day where they manage to find a secret box of letters and photographs. In amongst these memories are a collection of pictures of Helen's mother Mary with a baby girl who Helen knows is not her. On closer inspection it turns out to be Elizabeth a sister who Helen never knew she had, this prompts something in Helen and she decides to investigate.
After some searching on the internet Helen finds herself talking to a girl called Elizabeth Greene, who she belives is her long lost sister. The friendlier they get the more obvious it seems that Elizabeth is the sister Helen has been searching for, so she packs her bags and heads for London. And so the story begins!
I found this novel really easy to read, and it really draws you into the story, as soon as you begin to get to know the characters of Helen and Elizabeth you instantly want to know more, you want to read on to find out how things are going to work out. Whether Helen and Elizabeth really are sisters, whether they become friends? How Helen gets on in the big city when she has grown up quite isolated on the vineyard outside Bordeaux.
Although normally not a fan of books who are written from the perspective of more than one person, I actually found the fact that this book is written from the perspectives of Helen, Elizabeth and Helen's mother Mary a vital part of the novel. I found that it fills in a lot of the information that are integral to the story that may otherwise have been quite hard to fit into the story without it being a very long list of past information.
Although this book has a slightly darker side than Emily Barr's previous novels it is still a fantastic read, all chick lit fans would love this one to add their collection. It keeps you guessing until the last minute and the twist involving Helen's brother towards the end of the novel is fantastic and one I for one did not expect.
Great work by Emily Barr, another one well worth adding to your reading list.
I was lucky to get my copy of this book from a charity shop for the bargain price of a pound but I have found it on amazon for £5.49 or on their marketplace from as low of 1p plus postage.
We all have a dark side...
Elizabeth Greene is devastated when her boyfriend of ten years leaves her for someone else. After a night of drowning her sorrows leads to an unexpected one-night stand, Elizabeth finds herself pregnant, alone and vulnerable.
Helen has just discovered she has a sister she didn't know she had. Bored with her privileged life in France and driven by a need to gain her parents' approval, Helen sets out to find her sister and reunite her with her long-lost mother. When her search leads her to Elizabeth the two women become closely linked. But their connection to one another is founded on a dark deception, with the truth having extreme consequences...
Having never read an Emily Barr novel to its finish - I had Cuban Heels once but only got a quarter of the way in until I was fed up. However I saw the beautiful cover of The Sisterhood and the back of the book, the blurb, made me want to read it as soon as I could.
The novel was unputdownable, the way it switched to both girls (and Mary's, Helens mother) perspective was great. I really wanted to know more about Tom, Helen's brother) and the revelation about him was a huge surprise. I didn't see it coming. Both revelations were a huge surprise in fact.
I thought Helens character was great if a little naive and the more she got into Elizabeth's life the stranger she seemed to act and she got herself out of sticky situations really well, particularly when it looked as if Elizabeth might twig onto what was going on.
Elizabeth was an equally good character, in desperate need of someone when she finds out her boyfriend is gay and then to end up pregnant and alone. It seems that Helen can be the perfect friend for her, the person she needs to help her through her problems.
The ending was just brilliant with all the revelations, and the last chapter was just brilliant. It definitely paved the way for a potential sequel. Although that's probably just my opinion. I would definitely read it anyway.
First reviewed at http://chicklitreviews.wordpress.com
The Sisterhood is Emily Barr's seventh novel. I had read and enjoyed some of her earlier ones, but The Sisterhood is by far her most intriguing and enjoyable.
The novel is about two women for whom life has not exactly gone to plan so far. Helen struggles to maintain a relationship with her parents. It is obvious from very early on that she is a desperately unhappy young woman who sees her world in a very specific way.She is astounded to discover that her mother has been keeping a dark secret from her all her life - the existence of an older sister. That older sister is Liz Greene, newly pregnant but abandoned by her long term boyfriend who suddenly reveals that he is gay.. Helen, pinning all her hopes on Liz making her family complete, sets out to befriend her and gain her trust before revealing their family ties. However, Liz is not particularly keen on gaining a new friend and Helen has the habit of making a nuisance of herself.As the novel progresses, Helen's behaviour becomes more erratic and the story takes on more sinister overtones. Liz finds herself accused of doing and saying some peculiar things of which she has no knowledge. She fears she is going mad and is in danger of losing her close friends. It seems she has no alternative but to turn to Helen.
I found I became absorbed in this novel almost immediately. It has a very strong and compelling storyline which draws the reader in and keeps them wondering what will happen until the very end. I found myself reading with fascination and horror as Helen's actions become more and more disturbing and bizarre. I did not find either of the main characters very likeable, but I did feel a level of sympathy towards both of them. Their stories are told in alternate chapters, written in the first person, almost diary style. This is very effective, because Emily Barr cleverly reveals what is going on in the two women's minds, and often the same event is recounted in consecutive chapters but from very differing points of view. There is also the mother who, feeling trapped and depressed, abandoned her very small baby. Her story is told in a series of flashbacks which do help the reader to begin to understand all the contributing factors which have led up to the events in the novel.
Although the storyline is quite dark, the novel does also have some lighter moments. Emily Barr introduces an array of bright and colourful supporting characters in Liz's friends and colleagues who are brought in at critical moments to relieve the tension. I found I enjoyed these lighter moments as they provided some breathing space between the main events.
The novel is well paced and gathers momentum as Helen's behaviour spirals out of control. It is the sort of novel that you don't want to put down but you don't want to end either. I thought it was a well crafted novel which hooked me in from the start and did not disappoint all the way through to the end. I will definitely be looking out for more books by Emily Barr in the future.
A similar version of this review has appeared under my name on www.thebookbag.co.uk