The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon
|The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: Cleo may be the the model in the family, but sister Abi is an all round much nicer person. On an extended visit to stay, she's determined to see if any of her former, lovable big sis remains or if it's all been gobbled up by the fame monster. An excellent, fun, easy read that's just a little bit wicked.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: September 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Abi hasn't really had much of a relationship with her sister Cleo since Cleo was discovered on the street and morphed into a successful and well known model. It's now more than 20 years later, and the sisters are hardly what you'd call close. But, with a summer to kill and nowhere really to kill it in, Abi takes up her sister's offer to move into her plush Primrose Hill pad and spend some 'quality time' with the family. Except...Cleo's idea of quality family time is to go to the gym. Or the spa. Or a comeback casting. Anywhere really, as long as it's away from them all. And with brother in law Jon at work during the day, Abi quickly starts feeling like the hired help, shuttling her nieces around town and seeing to their every need.
This is a book with a clear message – it really is beauty on the inside that counts – and though the blurb on the back makes out there's a question to be thought about, I didn't need to consider it for more than a split second before deciding definitively who the ugly sister in this family was. Of course it helps that Abi is not wildly unfortunate looking – she's just normal, against Cleo's once stellar but now fading beauty. The children in the book – Megan and Tara – are delightful though I kept forgetting quite how young they were supposed to be as Tara especially seemed a bit old for a 10 year old. Maybe that's just what London pre-teens are like though.
These are not people who lack drama, but as with many families a lot of it is made all the more captivating by the fact it bubbles under the surface, a mess of secrets and lies and confusing I know but does he or she knows.
The detached narration took a little getting used to, and it's certainly unusual. But, I really liked it and thought it fitted the story well. It's a bit like reading a screenplay, and definitely gave the feel of an outsider looking in and commenting on the characters rather than the characters themselves telling you what they're feeling. It was remote, in a way, but far from cold, and it left me wishing more books were written in this style.
I really enjoyed the book. It was well paced and intriguing without being over the top, and Abi only played second fiddle to her sister in some respects, still having her own defined character and life beyond the shadow of Cleo. It's a smart read that is touching and sassy in equal parts and has the sort of grip that Emily Barr's books used to have on me before they came just that little bit repetitive and predictable. This story, on the other hand, has so much more going for it. And going on, too, for that matter. There's a love triangle, then another love triangle. A case of mistaken identity that could come straight out of a Shakespeare comedy. A mid life crisis or two, and of course those secrets and lies that bring it all together. Rather than seeming overloaded, the parts all slot together neatly like an Ikea flat-pack, making a cohesive story that goes off left and right but never seems to need to double back on itself.
Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book. I liked it, and I'm sure you will too.
Fallon's earlier Got You Back is also worth a peek while for a glimpse of what could have happened to Cleo in an alternative future, Celebrity: How Entertainers Took Over The World and Why We Need an Exit Strategy by Marina Hyde warrants a nod too.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon at Amazon.com.
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