I know a little bit about sisters, because I am one, and I’ve got one. A lovely one, actually. Both Piscean, my sister and I share a natural affinity for water (especially the sea) and, as the opposing fish of our birth-sign exemplify, we are quite different; she is optimistic, creative and easy-going whereas I am more pessimistic, academic and anxious. Like Katie and Mia in Lucy Clarke’s novel, there are just the two of us.
‘The Sea Sisters‘ opens with Katie being given the news that her younger sister, Mia, has been found dead in Bali, apparently having taken her own life by jumping from a cliff. Katie leaves her fiancé behind in London as she heads off to the other side of the world to try and discover the truth about her sister’s death, re-tracing Mia’s steps using her hand-written travel journal as a guide. The narrative alternates between that of Mia in the past and Katie in the present until the closing chapters, when Katie visits the site of Mia’s demise and the events of the dark night in Uluwatu are revealed.
Sibling relationships are often the longest of our lives and I was looking forward to this novel as an exploration of that important bond. Maybe the book would mirror my own experiences in some way. No such luck: rather than being buoyed along on a literary crest of a wave, I bobbed about in a becalmed backwater waiting for the tide to come in and rescue me. I have even looked around on the Internet as I wondered whether this book was intended as Young Adult fiction, because it is so simplistic. Apart from the text being poorly written, the characters are wooden and lacking in internal development. It was extremely hard to empathise with either sister, as both behave in ways which are vindictive and vengeful towards their sibling. It was hard to sustain the belief that they were so close and had enjoyed an idyllic shared childhood in Cornwall when, as adults they consistently betrayed one another, were secretive, argued and behaved generally despicably.
Squabbling with your sister is for children; this author definitely missed the boat when it came to celebrating sisterhood.