Lily Tuck’s latest novella, Sisters, opens with a quote from Christopher Nicholson’s Winter – “First and second wives are like sisters.” The quote sets the scene for the unnamed narrator’s story, who describes life with her new husband, his two teenagers, and the unbanishable presence of his first wife, ominously known only as ‘she’.
A partnership that stems from a betrayal is on uneven ground from the outset – history is on the side of the ex; there will always be nagging doubts about trust; and comparisons will be made.
And during those same evenings after dinner when we both had drunk too many glasses of wine, I also wanted to ask him: And who do you love best? Me or her? And who fucks best, me or her?
Tuck’s cool, precise narrator delivers her story with an obsessive but clinical tone. Her recall of seemingly unimportant details (particularly about what she was wearing and what she ate) provides a catalogue, documenting her marriage – and yet, we know that what she is actually dissecting is not shirts and dinners. Instead, these details and her speculation about the life of the first wife, create mounting tension. The ending to this story seems inevitable but Tuck is cunning and delivers a climax that is undeniably surprising.
I received my copy of Sisters from the publisher, Grove Atlantic, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
3.5/5 Brilliant choice for a quick, gripping read.
I can remember exactly what we ate at that dinner party: smoked salmon on toast to start with, then duck à l’órange, wild rice, and French string beans, then salad with assorted cheeses, and a crème brulée for dessert. All of it delicious.
As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter. The results for the day I finished this book (July 15): Belfast 13°-22° and Melbourne 5°-16°.