Today, it is my pleasure to welcome Moira Forsyth to my blog to talk about sisters in fiction. I will show the synopsis before handing you over to Moira.
About The Book
Maybe the worst thing hadn’t happened yet. You couldn’t know the awful things lined up in the future, looming.
The last thing Frances wants is a phone call from Alec, the husband who left her for her sister thirteen years ago. But Susan has disappeared, abandoning Alec and her daughter Kate, a surly teenager with an explosive secret. Reluctantly, Frances is drawn into her sister’s turbulent life.
SUCH DEVOTED SISTERS by Moira Forsyth, author of Tell Me Where You Are(Sandstone Press, 15 May 2019)
If your sister went missing, you’d want her found.
Or maybe not.
That’s the premise of Tell Me Where You Are, which is about three sisters, the middle one of whom has always caused trouble. All but one of my five published novels contain a set of sisters. In Tell Me Where You Are that relationship is toxic, the cause of unhappiness and conflict rather than mutual support and love. Even in the closest of sisterly relationships there are areas of friction and dissent, and I’m far from the first author to explore that.
We could start with Dorothy Edwards’s series of children’s books: My Naughty Little Sisterwhere the younger girl is constantly getting into trouble and older sister (the unnamed narrator) must sort things out, avoid being blamed and save their mother from disruption. I wonder what they were like when they grew up? Did the older girl settle down with a steady local boy, marry and have children (one of whom was bound to be Naughty Little Brother)? Or did she tire of being responsible? Did she rebel and leave home to live with unsuitable men and play in a rock band and dye her hair pink? Did Naughty Little Sister subdue her instinct for chaos and pass her exams, getting into a good university and finding a job in public relations? (I feel publicity is her forte.) Time someone wrote the sequel.
Then there are the sisters in Ballet Shoes, who are not sisters at all, but three adoptees from widely different backgrounds, who all go on to wonderful careers. Their lives are constricted by lack of money but made glamorous by the mystery of their origins and the intensity of the ambitions they pursue. Yet Noel Streatfield created a family life around them that, however unusual, is still familiar – the rivalries and resentments of the three girls are completely credible.
I come from a small family, with one younger sister and one girl cousin. Because there were just the three of us, we were close as children, and are close now as women with grown-up children. We’ve had years in between of living far apart, pursuing different lives, and there have been small patches of coolness. What links us though is stronger than anything that might divide us. As an adult I’ve only once fallen out with my sister, at a time when we were each suffering severe stress. We were both utterly miserable until we sorted things out.
In Tell Me Where You Are Frances is the oldest sister, the sensible one, but there is a good reason she’s alienated from Susan. Susan went off with her husband when their children were tiny, and that’s something hard to forgive anyone, let alone your sister. Gillian, the youngest, has her own problems, but she has lost Susan too – what Susan did has ripped her out of the family altogether.
One of my favourite novels when I was a child, was Little Women. There can’t be any girl who’s read it who doesn’t identify with one or other of the March sisters. I of course was Jo; my sister, Meg. She was the one content with home and family; I was the restless one, writing stories in cheap notebooks. I still can’t see why Jo should have been required (by saintly Marmee) to forgive Amy for destroying her manuscript. Just about as bad as going off with your husband (or worse….)
Jane Austen’s love for her sister Cassandra didn’t stop her from writing about sisters whose mutual understanding was less than perfect: Eleanor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility(another sensible older sister, note!) the self-centred and shallow Maria and Julia in Mansfield Park; the five sisters in Pride and Prejudice covering the spectrum from intelligent and thoughtful to downright silly. How brilliantly she depicts teenagers in that novel – man-mad Lydia and Kitty and priggish Mary.
Tell Me Where You Are is the one novel I’ve written which elicits the question from readers – are you planning a sequel? I never have. My focus is always on starting again, with a new set of characters and a different story. Each novel seems complete in itself. Yet, as I’ve begun talking about this novel again in the run up to its new publication date, I’ve started thinking about Susan’s story, and what her point of view might have been. Can you write fan fiction about your own work? Hm. Might try this one day.
Families are rich sources of conflict, high emotion and explosive secrets, and the special relationships between siblings is at the core of that. I planned to write about love and marriage in my last novel, A Message from the Other Side, but guess what? The principal characters are two sisters and two brothers.
About The Author
Moira Forsyth grew up in Aberdeen, lived in England for nearly twenty years, and is now in the Highlands. She is the author of four previous novels and many short stories and poems published in anthologies and magazines. Waiting for Lindsay and David’s Sisters, originally published by Sceptre, are now available as e-books from Sandstone Press, which also published The Treacle Well in 2015.