The Sisters’ Song is a wonderful read, one of the most absorbing books I’ve read in a while. I liked the simplicity of the linear narrative which drew me quickly into the story, combined with great emotional subtlety. The story explores sibling rivalry, the role of women and the limitations placed on them, and what happens to people when their dreams are snatched away. It tells the story of Nora and Ida, two sisters living in Tasmania, whose differences both challenge and unite them. The novel spans the 1920’s to the 1990’s and is authentic to time and place.
Nora seems destined for a life on the stage as a singer, and Ida aspires to be a loving wife and mother. Over several generations, we see the complexities of their marriages, their conflicted bond with each other, and how their expectations change. The characters felt very real to me. Ida is earthy and nurturing – she is a universal feminine archetype, the type of woman most of us know or have known, who lives to care for and love others. She’s no pushover, but her warmth and sacrifice shine through the pages. Nora is more guarded with her feelings, and single-minded in her determination to succeed. In a different way, she is also very relatable, as someone who prioritises her dreams and talent. This is also something to admire and would have been more unusual in the period depicted in the novel.
Beautiful descriptions of nature permeate the story – I found the sections set in the forest showing the lives of loggers, their simple huts and the towering trees above them moving and evocative. Their poverty contrasting with the magnificence of the natural surrounds.
This is an emotionally engaging page-turner which stayed with me long after I finished reading. I look forward to more by Louise Allan.