The Best Books Featuring Sisters

My sister is getting married in a few weeks, and I have this empty spot to fill in my posting schedule, so I decided that there was no time like the present to finally post a list of what I think are the best books featuring sisters.

I had to scroll through a lot of books to find the few that feature sisters. To be fair, there aren't many that feature brothers, either. Authors of the genres I typically read aren't that interested in the sibling relationships, I guess. I'm very interested in those relationships, though. Your siblings are these people who know all of your secrets and that you can't ever truly kick out of your life. Most of these books are by women, with a few notable exceptions written by men.

All that being said, I really love my sister! And my brother too!

Here are the books, without further ado. They're in no particular order except the last one, which is my absolute favourite.

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Although I now need to recommend this series with a big giant WARNING about the racism in it (which I don't remember from reading it in my youth, for whatever that may be worth). Eventually there are four Ingalls sisters, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace (who is introduced in the fifth book of the series, which is also the book where Mary's blindness develops). The Ingalls family are pioneers into the American west and everything about their story captured my imagination as a kid. I constantly imagined what it would be like to travel with my own family by covered wagon out into the plains, and live in a tiny log cabin.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know that Little Women is a foundational text for me. The four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, are some of my oldest friends in literature, and as I've grown up and reread the book several times, I've grown to love them all. In case you're unfamiliar, Little Women is the story of growing up in genteel poverty during and shortly after the American Civil War. The book is mostly vignettes featuring the interactions between the four sisters, the games they play, the scrapes they get into, and the lessons they learn. It's pretty Christian-oriented, but I don't think that needs to spoil anybody's fun.

The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett

This wasn't the first book that jumped to mind when I decided to write this post, but it absolutely deserves to be on the list. The Old Wives' Tale compares and contrasts the lives of two sisters, Constance and Sophia Baines, who are very different personalities, as so many sisters are. The two of them live basically right through the Victorian era, taking very different life paths.




Howards End by E. M. Forster

I've come to the conclusion that you can't go wrong with E. M. Forster, so it's no surprise that he can write a great relationship between sisters among so many other things. Howards End has a few plot threads, the main one being old sister Margaret Schlegel's deception by the Wilcox family. But there's also a strong bond featured between the two sisters, Margaret and Helen. Again, they are very different personalities, with Margaret being the steady support to the younger and impetuous Helen, and the affection between them is obvious.

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

The sisters in Fall on Your Knees are Kathleen, Mercedes, Frances, and Lily, growing up in Nova Scotia in the first half of the 20th century, with an abusive father and isolated, frightened mother. The book is all about the things sisters do to protect each other and the things that they can't protect each other from.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Let's step away from the literary and classic fiction for a moment for a look at a new Gothic novel, The Thirteenth Tale, in which amateur biographer Margaret Lea, who has a missing sister, gets the opportunity to interview famous reclusive author Vida Winter. After years of lying to reporters and biographers about her past, Vida decides to tell what she claims to be her true life story to Margaret. It turns out that Vida has a sister, too.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

In A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay explores a more sour relationship between sisters. Fourteen year old Marjorie and eight year old Merry Barrett are young girls living with their parents when Marjorie begins to exhibit the symptoms of either demonic possession or acute mental illness, eventually becoming the subject of a reality tv series. The book jumps back and forth in time, revealing the impact that Marjorie's actions have had on the life of her younger sister.

Honorable Mentions

These are cheats and some of them are jokes.

Twin Temptation by Cara Summers

My God I haven't thought about this book in years but here it is. Sometimes you just discover that you have a secret twin sister and have sex with her roommate.

The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier

This is du Maurier at her creepy interpersonal relationship best. The three Delaney siblings (two sisters and one brother) are caught up in an extremely bizarre dynamic, with Maria and Niall actually not being brother and sister, and their shared half-sister Celia being the one left to pick up the family pieces of her siblings' passions.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Mental illness is a hell of a drug, and sometimes it takes you over, and sometimes your sister has to save herself.

The Sweet Valley books by Francine Pascal

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the blonde, blue-green eyed identical twins of Sweet Valley. Stars of Sweet Valley High, Kids, Twins, Junior High, University, and God knows what else. The two girls more or less hate one another depending on which part of the series you read. It is trash.

Sisters in the Wilderness by Charlotte Gray

A dual biography of real-life pioneer sisters Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill. This book is a great illustration of how the two sisters supported one another through the trials of roughing it in the bush with an astonishing number of children and no money in the early days of Canada, mostly through letter-writing.

The Brontë sisters

Although there aren't a lot of sisters in the Brontës work, I want to highlight the real-life relationship between these three sisters that produced amazing literature together.

Stretching the Premise

Because sometimes sisters aren't related by blood.

We Band of Angels by Elizabeth M. Norman

Nurses are a sisterhood. This book is a great illustration of that, about army nurse POWs in the Philippines during WWII.

The Dune series by Frank Herbert

Can't write about sisters without mentioning the Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood of women who are basically a cross between spies, martial artists, prostitutes, and everything in between.

The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Specifically, the Witches. Witches are sisters.


And finally...

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Constance and Mary Katherine Blackwood live mostly alone together in a large house. They've withdrawn and simultaneously been ostracized from the people in the nearby village following the murder of the rest of the family. The sisters have an extremely codependent relationship which evolves over the course of the novel in pretty alarming ways. To me this is the best novel about sisters not because of the warmth between the two of them (Little Women does that better) but because of how complex their relationship is, being both loving and dangerous.

***

Okay everyone. What am I missing?

31. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Year Published: 1945
Pages: 95
First Sentence: Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes.
Rating: 3/3 (read it!)

Animal Farm by George Orwell | Two Hectobooks

Review:
Animal Farm is another book like Lord of the Flies which I'm not sure how I managed to avoid for so long. It's so short! I could've read this any time! Why did I wait so long!?

The truth is, though, that while I'm happy to have finally read George Orwell's first really famous book/critique of Stalinism, and I enjoyed the reading, I now feel like I need to read five or ten additional works in order to understand how I feel about this short novel. Amusingly, I've just discovered that it won a retrospective Hugo Award in 1996 for Best Novella, so I guess that's what I should call it. Whatever. Here's the beginning of my reading list to prepare for rereading Animal Farm with more context in a few years:
  • The Communist Manifesto
  • A biography of Joseph Stalin
  • A biography of Vladimir Lenin
  • A book about the Russian Revolution
  • Down and Out in Paris and London (?)

Because here's the thing: originally, this book was subtitled "A Fairy Story," and that's apt. For those even tardier to the party than me, it's an allegorical story about a farm where the animals rebel against the farmer and drive him away so that they can run it themselves. Things start off ok and everyone seems to have good intentions, until the pigs (the smartest animals) begin to assume power over the other animals. This is not subtle but does illustrate the importance of an educated population. In fact I think the whole book can be boiled down to a lack of subtlety but a very effective illustration of its points. Orwell is so good at the illustrations, too. The language is all very simple but he manages to control the tone so well from early optimism to later dread.

The problem is that there's just not enough here for me to draw any conclusions of my own. I've long believed for various reasons that Communism is one of those systems that looks great on paper but suffers from the fact that human beings aren't perfect frictionless spheres in their interactions. This seems to have been illustrated wherever communism has been tried. And I think that a lot of what Orwell is describing in this book is about that sort of thing, but I also know that Orwell was a democratic socialist because that's just a fact I have stored in my brain for some reason, and so I don't know exactly what he's driving at.

In any case, I suppose I'll be revisiting this book some time in the not too distant future when I know more about what was going on in the world in 1945. I won't mind rereading it at all.

Five Years Ago This Month: June 2014

Five years ago this month...

...I reviewed Main Street. It was a fabulous book, the details of which haven't stuck with me very well. I want to read more Sinclair Lewis for sure.

...I was distracted. Thanks to CBC not having the contract to air the World Cup in 2018, this was the first and last time I got to watch it. Here's hoping for next time around.