Thus begins Poppy Adams’ strange debut novel, The Sister. Narrated by the incredibly brilliant Ginny, The Sister tells the story of the sisters and their parents, Maud and Clive. They share a crumbling English estate known as The Red House because of the Virginia Creeper. Whole areas of the house have been shut down because Clive, a moth expert, and Maud can’t afford the estate.
Ginny takes the reader back in time, to the moment that her mother brought Vivi home from the hospital “her fluffy hair sticking up and her big round eyes gazing at me”. She recounts the time Vivi fell off the bell tower, an injury which very nearly cost her her life, but which did make it impossible for her to bear children. Ginny is the keeper of the memories and is in sole possession of the secrets, too.
Why did Vivi leave, never to return? It will be left to the reader to decide whether her homecoming is worth the hype. For me, the book falls short of the opening line’s promise. I was expecting something altogether more suspenseful. Instead, Adams spends a great deal of time instructing the reader on the nature of moths – a subject that holds absolutely no interest for me- and not nearly enough time examining just what keeps two sisters apart for fifty years.
The novel is well-written, certainly, but it moved too slowly and didn’t deliver on its early promise.
Moth lovers will likely be delighted.