I don’t have a sister. Instead I am the grown-up equivalent of all those children who create imaginary friends – I have an imaginary sister. Talented in ways I can only dream of, she is, however, as bewildered by bridge as I am and amazingly, she’s much worse at ball sports. She lives on a rambling estate with a retreat that offers exotic beauty treatments and delicious food. As you can see I have given this a fair bit of thought.
Normally my sisterless state doesn’t bug me at all, but when I read good books where sisters feature, I feel a little pool of loss. Pulitzer prizewinning author Marilynne Robinson’s book Housekeeping (a book with a terribly misleading title and cover – way to go Mr Publisher) is one such book. Listed by The Observer as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time, this little book is that rare thing: totally readable literature.
In the spirit of sisterhood, I asked those friends of mine who have female siblings to tell me of any novels that they felt really got to the heart of this sister thing. Here are some of their choices:
- The Poisonwood Bible (four sisters and an evangelical father)
- Frankie and Stankie (Durban sisters)
- Hideous Kinky (hippy sisters in Marrakesh)
- I Capture the Castle (enraged sisters) “To this day I associate peach-colored towels with muffled sisterly rage.”
- The Virgin Suicides (mysterious suicidal sisters)
But the Big Question for me remains: What’s the difference between a really good friend and a sister? And where is the book that has this as a theme?
I bet my imaginary sister would know.