Pan | 2014 (this edition 2018) | 627p (plus an extract of The Storm Sister) | Review copy and bought copy | Buy the book
Maia D’Apliese rarely leaves her home in the grounds of the grand lakeside castle in which she and her five sisters were brought up by their adopted father, known to them all as Pa Salt. But her father encouraged her to accept an invitation from an old school friend to visit her in London and it’s while she’s there that Maia receives a call from her father’s housekeeper Marina, the woman who effectively brought the girls up and who loves them as a mother, who breaks the terrible news that Pa Salt has suddenly died. Maia rushes home to discover that he has already been buried at sea, with no fuss at all. It’s devastating. And so Maia must wait for her five sisters to also return home whereupon they will each be given an object left by their father which hints at their early lives before they were adopted. If each wishes it, they can embark on an adventure to discover the truth of their past. But there is another mystery. Each of the sisters is named after one of the stars in the Seven Star constellation. So who is the seventh sister?
The novels tell the story of each of the sisters in turn, starting in The Seven Sisters with the eldest, Maia, a translator who is probably the most withdrawn from the world but is also the most beautiful. The clue left to her by Pa Salt takes Maia on a journey to Rio where she, along with the writer whose work she is there to translate, discover clues to her family’s identity. We’re then treated to a parallel story in the 1920s and there we meet Izabel, the stunning queen of Rio’s high society who falls in love with a man she shouldn’t.
When I received The Sun Sister to review I was intrigued. I loved the sound of it, with its time split story concerning one of six sisters trying to trace her origins in a distant land. I saw that it was the sixth in the series and so I thought I would go back to the beginning and read The Seven Sisters. I am so glad I did. It is enchanting and is so clearly only just the start of a great story. By the time I’d finished it I’d bought up all of the other novels so that now I can catch up, ahead of the publication of the much anticipated novel next year (hopefully) on the seventh mysterious sister. These are books in which clues are scattered. I want to follow them in order and watch the characters of these fascinating and very different sisters develop.
The Seven Sisters tells such a compelling story and it tells it gorgeously. I’ve read a novel by Lucinda Riley before (The Love Letter), which I loved so I knew I was in safe hands. This is important when embarking on reading a series in which every book is at least 600 pages long. I love how Lucinda Riley writes. It’s light but it’s also insightful. These characters are brought to life and I love here the way in which the past and the present interconnect. It’s a wonderful story but it’s also extremely sad and tender. It did make me cry.
I found myself completely caught up in the stories of Maia and also, maybe even more so, Izabel. I know nothing about Brazil in the 1920s but Lucinda brings it to life by focusing on an object that we’re all familiar with, the great statue of Christ the Redeemer, which Izabel and other characters in the novel observe being created. It even takes Izabel to Paris. Rio and Paris couldn’t be more different. Izabel must still wear a corset unlike her Parisian counterparts, she can’t go anywhere without a chaperone. Belle Époque Paris, with all of the freedom it offers, is irresistible and Izabel is completely consumed by it. It’s fabulous to read. My favourite pages, though, were those describing the lakeside castle in Switzerland. It really does feel like a secluded paradise.
I knew I’d fall for this series and I was right. The Seven Sisters, like the other novels, is very long but it’s a fast, engrossing read. It also contains layers of mystery concerning Pa Salt and the missing sister which are only just hinted at here. Clearly this will be developed through the novels. Next up is The Storm Sister, the story of the second eldest sister Ally, named for the star Alcyone. This time the destination will be Norway. I can’t wait.
The Love Letter