It’s not news that I love books. I love reading them. I love the way they look on my shelves, my bedside table, my desk, the kitchen bench, in my handbag, perched on the edge of the couch… you get the picture (book hoarder). Just having books around me makes me happy.
Most of all though, I love seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and that is something books are uniquely good at.
Even better than reading a good book and discovering a new author you can secretly love from afar, is reading a good book written by someone you know. There’s the tantalizing thrill of prying open the inner workings of their brain. The fear of what you will do if you don’t like it, and the excitement in letting them know that you do. You try and piece together what you know of them, and how they found their idea. It makes the reading all the more pleasurable.
I met Louise Allan through a workshop group and was struck with how bright and outgoing she is. The best word I can use to describe her is gregarious. So, I knew immediately that I had read her book.
I was not disappointed.
Set in Tasmania, The Sister’s Song traces the lives of two sisters who each mourn the loss of what could have been. They story is narrated from Ida’s point of view, beginning in childhood, as she struggles to live in the shadow of her younger sister’s immense musical talent. As the sisters grow up it seems they are destined to lead drastically different lives. Ida a wife and mother, Nora an opera star. Yet both sisters suffer different but equally devastating loss and find themselves having to reconstruct their sense of self and purpose. The relationship between Ida and Nora is deftly portrayed, exploring the complex and intricate ways that women rely upon, and care for, each other.
Louise Allan’s The Sister’s Song is a book that rings and resonates like a tiny crystal bell. It is delicate and beautiful, and sings with an exquisite melancholy that is somehow touching and heart-warming in its sadness and beauty. There is so much to love about this book. The writing is crisp and clear and there are no wasted words. Instead, Allan manages to lay bare her characters loss and trauma without resorting to melodrama. It simply is, and the story is all the more powerful and devastating for it.
Set in an era where women’s roles were clearly proscribed and defined, The Sister’s Song speaks to all women about their hardships, their losses, their work and their need for kinship. Running through the book is the whisper of hope and optimism that together we are stronger, that there is no one path, and that what was, is no more.