Review: The Sister by Poppy Adams

The Sister, Poppy Adams’ debut novel, is a dark, eerie story. The novel opens at Bulburrow Court, an old manor and family home, with 70ish Ginny waiting for the arrival of her younger sister Vivi, whom she has not seen for nearly 50 years. Why have they been separated? Why has Vivi come back? Is she looking for something? Which sister is THE sister of the title? The suspense kept me reading page after page, looking for answers.

We notice almost immediately that Ginny is a bit ‘off’. She’s hyper-focused on time, wearing two wristwatches and constantly checking them against her many other clocks. Her tea must be just so and she can’t drink it if it’s made by someone else. It takes her 55 minutes to make her bed and arrange her sheets meticulously. Her weird ways are doled out liberally throughout the story, giving the impression that all is not right with our narrator. Vivi, on the other hand, seems the more normal of the two, but there are still questions..

Adams weaves details of the past with the present in alternating chapters. But are things as they appear? What really happened at the bell tower and on the cellar steps? Lots of questions are raised, but few are answered, leaving the reader a little frustrated and forced to speculate on what is really going on here.

There is a strange sense of foreboding, mystery and suspense coursing through the entire novel, mixed in with an extensive amount of scientific detail about moths. Moths? Why, yes.. Ginny is a World Famous Lepidopterist. At least, she is world famous in her own mind.

Decades old family secrets begin to unravel and our narrator, so level headed and scientific (again, in her own mind) starts coming unglued. The disturbance in her routine brought on by Vivi’s arrival is so unsettling that she finds herself spying on her, following her around, listening in doorways, and becoming increasingly obsessive in her behaviors. The tension builds continuously and by the last few chapters I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know what was going to happen.

Each chapter has a short descriptive title and there is a table of contents, which I love. The Sister is very well written and I predict we will see more of Poppy Adams in the future. I look forward to that.

16 Responses

  1. I just discovered your blog, courtesy of Book Group Buzz — what a great resource! And you hooked me with posts on Time Traveler’s Wife (I was late in reading it too — wonderfully original) and with the James Lipton meme. I used to ask my high school students to take a (modified) version of the questionnaire as a way of generating ideas for writing. Feel free to check out my blog, too: and keep up the good work! Cool ClustrMap, too…

  2. I finished this yesterday too! It never did quite click with me though. I enjoyed THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON and THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON a lot more.

  3. This sounds really good – it sounds as though you liked it? I’m going to go check this out, thanks for the review!

  4. HI Kristen, thanks for stopping by!! Love your blog!

    Julie, I was hooked on it right from the beginning. I’ll have to look at those other B&N First Look titles when they come out (or are they out already??)

    Tara, I did like it! It was really different and Ginny was a highly original character. But, it’s not out yet! I should have mentioned that. It’s coming out in June ’08. I read it through Barnes and Noble’s First Look program.

  5. *sigh* Oh, I’ll get back into it, I guess. Your review is kinda motivating…

  6. Ginny was the narrator, yes?

  7. Trish, I think if you can get beyond the moth stuff you’ll really like it. Care, yes, Ginny is the narrator. Maybe that’s not clear from my review. I’ll have to re-read it. Sorry!

  8. Thanks for visiting my blog 🙂 Naturally, I agree with your review! Well written 🙂

  9. Oh, I definitely have to read this novel. Have you read The Thirteenth Story? It sounds somewhat similar. Thanks for the wonderful review!

  10. Lisa, I just finished the audio book version and it was wonderful. The ending fell a little flat for me, but the voices in this novel were wonderful. I’m writing my review right now and I’m using your review for spelling. Without reading the book with my eyes, I had no idea how to spell lepidopterist or Bulburrow. Thank you so much!!! 🙂 Happy New Year!

  11. Hi Jennifer, I’ve never listened to an audio book before! I don’t have a commute I don’t know when I’d listen to one.. anyway, glad you liked the book. I read it with the B & N online book club and many people didn’t care for it, but I thought it was really good- and creepy!

  12. I did not care for this book at all — I found it creepy. And too much information on moths. The Thirteenth Tale and The House at Riverton are way better books!!

  13. I can understand the “too much info on moths” issue, but I still think this was a great book. I find it fascinating that so little action can occur in a story and yet you still find yourself turning pages like crazy.

  14. I just finished The Sister. Bought it on a remainder cart, and I can understand why. The moth details went on ad nauseum. She had a Hitchcock like story that went nowhere fast. I am dropping it in the used book sale in my library.

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