A Sister’s Story by Donatella di Pietrantonio translated by Ann Goldstein
We’re told that the girls were close in childhood, but I think the evidence must be in another book. (The blurb says A Sister’s Story revisits the places and characters of A Girl Returned which I haven’t read.) I felt a much stronger connection with the tragedy of her marriage, which is more clearly mapped out. I think I’d have found a different novel, A Wife’s Story, much more satisfying, with this strand developed even more.
A Sister’s Story is about two Italian sisters’ tragic failure to make more loving marriages than their parents managed. Thanks to publishers Europa editions for my review copy.
The Sky Above The Roof by Nathacha Appanah translated by Geoffrey Strachan
His mother, Phoenix, had a difficult childhood. Cursed with unusual beauty and a sweet voice, her parents dressed her like a doll and put her on the stage. Reinventing herself in her teens, even rejecting the name her parents gave her, she’s raised her own two children in an entirely different way. Unfortunately, she hasn’t realised that simply doing the opposite is equally problematic.
Both children are damaged by her hands-off mothering, growing up timid when she tried to make them strong. Phoenix can’t see that, although she’s risen from the ashes of her childhood, her wings are scorched.
This lyrical novel’s jumps in time and point of view are slightly disorientating, but strongly illustrate the interconnections between people and how the past is always present if incompletely processed. They also clue us in to how Wolf might experience his world. I loved the psychology and the pathos: the genesis of secure versus insecure attachments and how we can harm others when we think we’re doing good.
I also loved it for the echoes of the themes in my own fiction: Diana in Sugar and Snails has also forged a new identity in adolescence, although her blind spots and as damaging as Phoenix’s; Steve in Underneath never planned to keep a woman captive; Henry has never stopped hoping for a reunion with his older sister, although in Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home she’s been gone for fifty years.
Thanks to publishers Maclehose Press for my review copy. The Sky Above The Roof is the first contender for Annecdotal’s favourite reads of 2022.