Book review: Sisters by Daisy Johnson

Another book for review that I received through NetGalley – so sharing here, too. I’ll do a proper update soon. I went freelance just as the CV-19 pandemic was confirmed so… thank goodness for savings, I guess, at this stage?

This was a five-star book for me (duh).

The blurb

Something unspeakable has happened to sisters July and September.

Desperate for a fresh start, their mother Sheela moves them across the country to an old family house that has a troubled life of its own. Noises come from behind the walls. Lights flicker of their own accord. Sleep feels impossible, dreams are endless.

In their new, unsettling surroundings, July finds that the fierce bond she’s always had with September – forged with a blood promise when they were children – is beginning to change in ways she cannot understand.

My review

sistersDaisy Johnson delivers another masterfully vivid, ominous book. Personally I seem to have been on a run of reading about small families escaping to small houses far away from anywhere, with some creeping dread sitting at the heart of them. They’re my kind of book, which means *this* is absolutely my kind of book. I’m wary of saying anything more specific than this, because I rather think the less you know, going in, the better. So much so than I’ve deleted my initial response which was a sort of list of references along the lines of ‘if you like X you’ll like….!’

Johnson manages to write her characters and their situation in such a way that the reader find themselves abruptly caught in the current of their story and unable to break free. She pulls in threads of foreboding, hints at disquiet in some cases (the mother, her history, the careful building of a domestic past she has run back to, in order to escape it), and sets up outright chills in others. The whole feels inevitable – towards the end in particular, as the pieces begin to click into place, as the red herrings fall away – but even so there’s always, always the sense that you’ll be wrongfooted in a way that makes perfect sense to the story. The relationship between July and September, and the amorphous edges of their identities, mean that as readers we can trust nothing we are told, and we can assume nothing.

This wavering identity and unnamed dread seem to be a particular trope of Johnson’s, and she always does it well and I enjoy it hugely.

Anyway – I don’t want to say more for fear of spoilers. Just that if you pick up this book expecting more of the excellence that was ‘Fen’ and ‘Everything Under’ you will not be disappointed. Nor will you be bored. Johnson is still evolving as a writer, certainly not a one-trick pony, and ‘Sisters’ is similar enough and different enough to her earlier work to keep me reading.

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