Stories about sisters are definitely having a Moment in publishing right now. Good sisters, bad sisters, little sisters, big sisters, there are sisters all over the place; it's clearly a subject which strikes a chord with people, perhaps because the sisterly relationship is one so many women have experienced and can relate to, for good, for bad, or for complicated. (Not me, though. I haven't got a sister.)
Neither does Josie at the start of this book, not as far as she knows. Josie is twenty-four, stable, sensible - she has a responsible job, an affluent background, two loving parents, a flat with boyfriend Arun. When her adored father Jerry, "The Viking", dies in an accident - losing control of his motorcycle on a country road in the middle of the night - Josie's world begins to unravel. She learns that her father had another family - another daughter, Valentina, of very similar age and appearance but very different in personality. Valentina is wild, unpredictable, a troubled troublemaker with a chaotic lifestyle. As the worlds of the two sisters collide, Josie's life too begins to spiral more and more out of control.
I found The Good Sister a very compelling read. Chapters are narrated by both Josie and Valentina - contrary to convention the chapter heading doesn't tell you which, and while it's usually obvious, this enables the author to effectively mislead the reader on occasion. There are plenty of twists and turns here and the eventual denouement is a surprise, though I did guess the identity of one character shortly before it was revealed (the careful avoidance of certain pronouns is a sure sign of authorial trickery!).
The late Jerry prided himself on his romanticised Viking heritage, regaling his daughters with stories, and snippets of Viking lore are woven through the narrative. This adds an unusual dimension, though ultimately I did sympathise with Valentina's final verdict on "all that Viking stuff".
There are some great descriptions here. The characters jump off the page and Valentina's chaotic life and appalling living conditions are particularly well drawn. An account of a (disastrous) party is particularly vivid and memorable.
All in all a cleverly crafted and highly engaging read which I can thoroughly recommend.
Many thanks to Bookuture and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!
Up next: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse.