Sisters
From a Booker Prize finalist and international literary star: a blazing portrait of one darkly riveting sibling relationship, from the inside out."One of her generation's most intriguing authors" (Entertainment Weekly), Daisy Johnson is the youngest writer to have been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Now she returns with Sisters, a haunting story about two sisters caught in a powerful emotional web and wrestling to understand where one ends and the other begins.Born just ten months apart, July and September are thick as thieves, never needing anyone but each other. Now, following a case of school bullying, the teens have moved away with their single mother to a long-abandoned family home near the shore. In their new, isolated life, July finds that the deep bond she has always shared with September is shifting in ways she cannot entirely understand. A creeping sense of dread and unease descends inside the house. Meanwhile, outside, the sisters push boundaries of behavior—until a series of shocking encounters tests the limits of their shared experience, and forces shocking revelations about the girls’ past and future.Written with radically inventive language and imagery by an author whose work has been described as "entrancing" (The New Yorker), "a force of nature" (The New York Times Book Review), and "weird and wild and wonderfully unsettling" (Celeste Ng), Sisters is a one-two punch of wild fury and heartache—a taut, powerful, and deeply moving account of sibling love and what happens when two sisters must face each other’s darkest impulses.

Sisters Details

TitleSisters
Author
ReleaseAug 25th, 2020
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780593188958
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

Sisters Review

  • Amalia Gavea
    January 1, 1970
    ''My sister is a black hole.My sister is a tornado.My sister is the end of the line my sister is the locked doormy sister is a shot in the dark.My sister is waiting for me.My sister is a falling tree.My sister is a bricked-up window.My sister is a wishbone my sister is the night trainmy sister is the last packet of crisps my sisteris a long lie-in.My sister is a forest on fire,My sister is a sinking ship.My sister is the last house on the street.'' Two sisters. September and July. A broken ''My sister is a black hole.My sister is a tornado.My sister is the end of the line my sister is the locked doormy sister is a shot in the dark.My sister is waiting for me.My sister is a falling tree.My sister is a bricked-up window.My sister is a wishbone my sister is the night trainmy sister is the last packet of crisps my sisteris a long lie-in.My sister is a forest on fire,My sister is a sinking ship.My sister is the last house on the street.'' Two sisters. September and July. A broken mother. A house that stands witness to an unfolding drama, a silent observer of two lives that try to find a direction, in a society that is always ready to judge and condemn.This is the new triumph by Daisy Johnson, one of the most brilliant, most unique writers of our generation. ''This the year we are houses, lights on in every window, doors that won't quite shut.'' ''The house is going to float away and take my darling girls with it.'' September and July are two ordinary teenagers who face the same problems like any other teenager in the world. Acceptance, uncertainty, desire, coping with the despicable attitude of the ''popular'' students and the absence of the father. Their mother is fighting against her own demons and the two girls are practically left to look after themselves, their only support being the bond between sisters. Daisy Johnson uses poetic language to depict the daily life and the issues that require strength and resilience. However, this novel is far from an ordinary contemporary account of a family. It is a haunting mystery of the past and the uncertain, fragile future. ''Something is screaming in the wall.'' Set in the North York moors, the house becomes a character, a significant, misty presence looming over the small family. With evident traces of depression and desperate actions of self-harm, darkness has engulfed the two girls. The house seems alive, full of sounds and shadows, full of memories and lurking threats. The rain doesn't stop, the birds are menacing, the ants are crawling inside the walls, whispers and cracks and the fragile mind of July who struggles to understand her sister and the world around her. What has happened to this house? What has happened to this family? Johnson's outstanding writing leaves the answers to us... ''There are so many noises she cannot sleep. In the night, mostly, thumps and thundering, the sound of many footsteps, the crash of windows opening and closing, sudden explosions which sound like shouting. Sometimes she goes rushing out, still half-asleep, but there is never anyone there.'' Following the mysterious Fen and the haunting Everything Under, Daisy Johnson gives us one more masterpiece in Sisters. An earthy, raw, brave hymn to sisterhood and family relationships, an elegy for the darkness we are called to fight against from an early age, a moving account of carrying on when all else is fading...How fortunate and grateful we must feel for Daisy Johnson's presence in the literary world...P.S. If this doesn't find a place in the Man Booker list, I am done with this award. For real. ''The Settle House is load-bearing. Here is what it bears: Mum's endless sadness, September's frightful wrath, my quiet failures to ever do quite what anyone needs me to do, the seasons, the death of small animals in the scrublands around it, every word that we say in love or anger to one another.'' Many thanks to Random House UK and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    The cover of this book is EVERYTHING!!! And it couldn't be more fitting for this slim mind fuck of a novel. July and September are sisters and best of friends. They don't need or require anything from anyone else but each other. The book begins with them moving to an isolated house with their depressed single mother after something sinister transpired between the girls back in their hometown. "This the year something else is the terror." I can say no more plot wise. This book cast its spell on The cover of this book is EVERYTHING!!! And it couldn't be more fitting for this slim mind fuck of a novel. July and September are sisters and best of friends. They don't need or require anything from anyone else but each other. The book begins with them moving to an isolated house with their depressed single mother after something sinister transpired between the girls back in their hometown. "This the year something else is the terror." I can say no more plot wise. This book cast its spell on me. It was hypnotic and hallucinatory and gave me that surreal mind bending experience that I absolutely love. Celeste Ng described this book as "weird and wild and wonderfully unsettling" and she couldn't be more spot on in her description. Daisy Johnson has impeccable writing skills and she uses words in the most glorious of ways. Let's just say I'll drink her Kool-aid any day. 5 stars!Thank you to Edelweiss and Riverhead Books for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Ceecee
    January 1, 1970
    This excellent novel is the story of sisters September and July and their mother Sheela. The girls are so entwined its hard to know where one starts and the other ends. Following an incident in Oxford they go to Settle House near the coast of the North York Moors and what happens there is emotional, powerful and full of intriguing questions. The story is principally told by the two sisters. This story is beautifully written and full of atmosphere provided mostly by the house. To Sheela the house This excellent novel is the story of sisters September and July and their mother Sheela. The girls are so entwined it’s hard to know where one starts and the other ends. Following an incident in Oxford they go to Settle House near the coast of the North York Moors and what happens there is emotional, powerful and full of intriguing questions. The story is principally told by the two sisters. This story is beautifully written and full of atmosphere provided mostly by the house. To Sheela the house is a living organism as it’s somewhat creaky, it has cracks and flaws which sums up her disastrous relationship with the girls father Peter who died several years ago. The girls personalities come across strongly, September is disruptive and dominant but she fills the gaps in Julys more fearful personality with the two making a whole. It’s like the girls are pieces of a jigsaw that fit together and conjoin. The girls are both outsiders but it’s bothers September less and she copes better than July. There are many themes in this story - there’s destruction which is symbolised by Sheela and Peter’s relationship; there’s isolation which is what happens to the girls at school but also both girls isolate Sheela as they don’t need her like they need each other. There’s control - September of July and their mother and there’s also grief and sadness. The end is extremely overwhelming in its power and it’s also unexpected. Overall, I love this beautiful and very different story. At times it’s a bit weird and you don’t see the big picture until the end which I really like. The cover is stunning and a terrific reflection of the story. Just noticed the above isn’t the cover of the book I read??? That was way better than this one!! Highly recommended. Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for the ARC.
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    As she has already proven with Everything Under, Daisy Johnson is simply a master when it comes to evoking an enchanting, haunting atmosphere and subtly portraying complicated family relationships. In her sophomore novel which can be read as a family tale, but also as a gothic, if not even a ghost story, the focus is on an almost symbiotic pair of sisters and on another major theme which only becomes clear after a major twist - you think you see it coming, but then it turns out to be not quite As she has already proven with Everything Under, Daisy Johnson is simply a master when it comes to evoking an enchanting, haunting atmosphere and subtly portraying complicated family relationships. In her sophomore novel which can be read as a family tale, but also as a gothic, if not even a ghost story, the focus is on an almost symbiotic pair of sisters and on another major theme which only becomes clear after a major twist - you think you see it coming, but then it turns out to be not quite what you expected. Our teenage protagonists September and July are born only ten months apart, and with their Danish father Peter dead, their mother Sheela, a writer with Indian roots, raises them by herself in Oxford. When July is severely bullied in school, September attempts to retaliate, and tragedy ensues - as the family moves to a remote house in the North York Moors, they try to come to terms with what happened. Johnson works with a strong sense of place: While the almost magical river determined the flow of Everything Under, it is the old house that functions as an additional protagonist in "Sisters". Much like Poe's House of Usher, the building seems to permeate the people and vice versa, while also representing mental states with its crumpling walls, decaying structures and onslaught of nature that tries to take back the space. In this novel, houses and people can be inhabited, they can offer shelter, but also disintegrate. And the house is not the only slightly twisted mirror image / doppelgaenger: The sisters are closely connected and reflect each other, but one resembles Sheela and one Peter. Sheela suffers from depression and is still struggling with Peter's death, although they had a complicated relationship (as, in some ways, do the siblings), and the writer also reflects images of her daughters in the books she creates.And then there's the intricate portrayal of the multi-layered relationship between July and September, a connection that is full of love, but also marked by cruelty, manipulation and possessiveness. Johnson might have chosen a structure that is not always convincing when it comes to the composition of different parts and chapter breaks, but the narrative decision to offer the alternating viewpoints of July (in the first person) and that of Sheela (in the third person) effectively conveys shifting mental states of these unreliable narrators.And for those of you who can't live on without knowing what the theme conveyed by the twist is, here are some clues hidden in spoiler tags: First I assumed it would be kind of this (view spoiler)[ Fight Club (hide spoiler)], but turns out it's much closer to this (view spoiler)[ Grief is the Thing with Feathers (hide spoiler)]. All in all, Johnson's new novel doesn't disappoint, and I'm already more than excited to read whatever she will write next.
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    She had always known that houses are bodies and that her body is a house in more ways than most. She had housed those beautiful daughters, hadnt she, and she had housed depression all through her life like a smaller, weightier child, and she housed excitement and love and despair and in the Settle House she houses an unsettling worry that she finds difficult to shake, an exhaustion that smothers the days out of her. I loved Daisy Johnsons debut novel Everything Under (which lead to her being She had always known that houses are bodies and that her body is a house in more ways than most. She had housed those beautiful daughters, hadn’t she, and she had housed depression all through her life like a smaller, weightier child, and she housed excitement and love and despair and in the Settle House she houses an unsettling worry that she finds difficult to shake, an exhaustion that smothers the days out of her. I loved Daisy Johnson’s debut novel “Everything Under” (which lead to her being the youngest person shortlisted for the Booker Prize) – a novel I described as a literary novel of the liminal, language, leaving and legend.And that in turn lead me to her first publication – the short story collection “Fen” which I described as thematically about “transitions; boundaries; sexuality; earth and mud; water, rivers, boats and barges; metamorphosis and shapeshifting; legend, English folklore and ancient magic, grounded in the landscape; language and the power of words.”This is her third book and one which I think draws on a slightly different tradition than the Greek legend and English folklore of its two predecessors: horror novels and films. In the Guardian’s Books That Made Me column, Johnson said her comfort read was “The Shining” ”give me a scary book and a long evening every day” and she has commented elsewhere on being born on Halloween and that ”I loved reading books where the everyday is inhabitated by the weird, where the normal becomes strange. Horror teaches us about suspense and tension, about the edges where belief can stretch and morph”The book is about two very close sisters – July and her 10 month older sister September. They live with their mother Sheela (a writer of illustrated children’s stories based on fictional adventures of the sisters), their Danish father having died some time after separating from their mother. July and September are very close, but different in character, the fiercely tempered September is the domineering one (and seemingly with something of the most unattractive traits of her father’s character), July the misfit follower. After some girls at their Oxford school trick July into sexting, a knife armed September plots a show down to teach the girls a lesson, and the repercussions lead to the girls leaving school and the family Oxford, retreating to an old and run-down coastal house “Settle House” in the North Yorkshire Moors. The house is now owned by Peter’s sister and is where Peter and later September were born. The book opens with them arriving at the house, and we switch between a lengthy first party account form July and third party accounts from Sheela (with a brief section from the Settle House itself) including as the book progresses one which go back to examine the events in Oxford.As July’s account progresses we become like her (and, despite its name, the House) increasingly unsettled as to what she is experiencing and what she is reading – and (as in Johnson’s quote above) the house itself as well as July’s senses start to stretch and morph at the edges and its probably more accurate to say that the weird is occasionally visited by the everyday (rather than vice versa).This book is difficult to discuss further. The eponymous sisters we are told “liked reading the twist in books first” – but by contrast Daisy Johnson herself has been reluctant to discuss the myth on which “Everything Under” is based (and has queried reviews which mention it in the first few lines) and similarly the twist (or twists) in this book are integral to the experience of reading it.What I can perhaps say is that what seems to be a satisfactory but (I felt) ultimately predictable and underwhelming resolution to the mystery (perhaps one I would expect to see more in a psychological holiday-read thriller and which briefly made me wonder if the book should have been marketed as “Girl Girl” rather than “Sisters” as a signal of its genre) takes a more emotional turn followed by a second and more satisfactory ending.Overall I found this a very enjoyable book and further evidence of Johnson’s skills and abilities but at the same time slightly disappointing compared to what seemed to be the greater depth, fluidity and particularly engagement with legend and language of “Everything Under”.If there is a theme to this book I would describe it as occupancy and containment: the opening quote shows some of the relationships drawn between people and houses; we also have the close relationship between the sisters (is it symbiotic or ultimately parasitic); the way in which the characters of the two parents inhabit their children. My thanks to Random House UK for an ARC via Net Galley.
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  • Tom Mooney
    January 1, 1970
    The blurb on the proof of this book compares it to Steven King and Shirley Jackson. What an insult. Neither of them are even fit to tie Daisy Johnson's shoelaces.This is an incredible feat of literary suspense. Johnson has conjured a creepy, textured narrative in rich, earthy prose that sings like poetry.I won't say much more - there are so many spoilers that would ruin what is a mesmerising reading experience. It's like an unholy combination of Max Porter and Chuck Palahniuk. Creepy, painful The blurb on the proof of this book compares it to Steven King and Shirley Jackson. What an insult. Neither of them are even fit to tie Daisy Johnson's shoelaces.This is an incredible feat of literary suspense. Johnson has conjured a creepy, textured narrative in rich, earthy prose that sings like poetry.I won't say much more - there are so many spoilers that would ruin what is a mesmerising reading experience. It's like an unholy combination of Max Porter and Chuck Palahniuk. Creepy, painful and utterly gripping (I shirked duties to my children to finish it!). I hope this finds the audience - and the awards - that it deserves. It's fabulous.
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  • Fatma
    January 1, 1970
    omg this book cover ?!?!?!? book cover design is cancelled. we have simply peaked with this book cover
  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    Oh dear, I'm fully expecting to be an outlier here: I didn't like Everything Under but was curious to give Johnson another try with this book: but nope, sorry, she just isn't a writer I can get along with. I'm sure mine will be a minority opinion but for what it's worth I disliked the prose which often feels pretentious and sometimes plain meaningless: 'sleep is heavy, without corners', 'my insides are filled with bees', 'alarm grows in my bone marrow and swans up my throat'. It just grated Oh dear, I'm fully expecting to be an outlier here: I didn't like Everything Under but was curious to give Johnson another try with this book: but nope, sorry, she just isn't a writer I can get along with. I'm sure mine will be a minority opinion but for what it's worth I disliked the prose which often feels pretentious and sometimes plain meaningless: 'sleep is heavy, without corners', 'my insides are filled with bees', 'alarm grows in my bone marrow and swans up my throat'. It just grated constantly, as the author over-reaches to find a novel way to convey something immediately understood already by the reader.Then there's the 'twist' which arrives with all the subtlety of a hammer-blow - it's crude, it's a staple of popular psychological thrillers, and it's not delivered with nuance. A book which is built on a tear-the-rug-from-under-the-reader's-feet structure carries the risk of some readers shrugging in a seen it before manner - I rolled my eyes: I mean seriously?.The book is packed with issues (view spoiler)[ symbiotic sisterhood tempered by competition, distant or lost parents, social media/sexual bullying, mental health, grief (hide spoiler)] but they're skimmed over rather than treated with depth. For me this is superficial and shallow, stating the obvious and skimming all kinds of surfaces - but I expect many readers will disagree. Great cover, though!Thanks to Vintage for an ARC via NetGalley.
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  • Neil
    January 1, 1970
    In Daisy Johnsons Booker-listed debut novel (impressive start!), a river flowed through it and held things together. Here, in Sisters, it is a house that acts as a kind of focal point, at least location-wise.September and July are sisters, born just 10 months apart. Their mother is raising them as a single parent after their fathers death and, when July experiences bullying at school, September decides to take matters into her own hands resulting in a tragedy that sees the family head off to the In Daisy Johnson’s Booker-listed debut novel (impressive start!), a river flowed through it and held things together. Here, in Sisters, it is a house that acts as a kind of focal point, at least location-wise.September and July are sisters, born just 10 months apart. Their mother is raising them as a single parent after their father’s death and, when July experiences bullying at school, September decides to take matters into her own hands resulting in a tragedy that sees the family head off to the north of England to the aforementioned house, Settle House, where they attempt to, errmm, settle.This is one of those books where it would be unfair to say anything else about the plot. To begin with, it reads like a straightforward story of two very close sisters, one a rebel and one more acquiescent. But, bubbling under the surface, there are ongoing hints that there is more going on than we think. Gradually, it becomes clear. Except it doesn’t - what you think is happening isn’t what is happening. At least, not quite. Eventually, it all slots into place.This is a book that is at times a story of family relationships, at times a ghost story or gothic horror of some kind, and at times an exploration of grief. Often it is all three of these together. (As a comedy aside, I was very amused by the reference to mice breeding like rabbits. "Breeding like rabbits" is exactly what we say, but mice actually breed faster.)Overall, I found this an absorbing book to read but it didn’t have the same power as Everything Under. Johnson writes very well about family relationships and makes interesting use of the house as a sort of additional protagonist (sometimes the house is like a person, sometimes the people are like buildings). The book is often creepy or uncomfortable which makes for a fun read!3.5 stars rounded up.My thanks to Random House UK for an ARC via NetGalley.
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  • SueLucie
    January 1, 1970
    I had read a previous book by this author, Everything Under, so was pleased to be able to review this new one. About halfway through, though, I remembered my experience with the earlier book - that of being engaged with her prose but underwhelmed by the plot. This time I again found the plot left me cold, nothing new here, and events approached so obliquely that I had to reread sections several times to work out what was meant. Since its impossible to describe the story without spoilers I wont I had read a previous book by this author, Everything Under, so was pleased to be able to review this new one. About halfway through, though, I remembered my experience with the earlier book - that of being engaged with her prose but underwhelmed by the plot. This time I again found the plot left me cold, nothing new here, and events approached so obliquely that I had to reread sections several times to work out what was meant. Since it’s impossible to describe the story without spoilers I won’t even attempt it. Crucially, though, for me the writing here lacked the atmosphere of her earlier work that I’d admired, the house was creepy but not really creepy enough, the relationship between the sisters and between the sisters and their mother didn’t quite convince. A disappointment and not a book I’d be likely to recommend.With thanks to Random House Vintage via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.
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  • Chris Haak
    January 1, 1970
    Yet another brilliant novel by Daisy Johnson! I looked it up and saw she is only 29/30! So young and so talented... Her writing is beautiful, very rich; it affects all your senses. And -like in Everything Under- there's an interesting twist in the story again.Thank you Riverhead and Edelweiss for the ARC
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  • Jessica Klahr
    January 1, 1970
    This book was taut and stylized and had this rhythm to it where after a while it was hard to step out of the flow and go back to regular life. I wasnt totally sold on Johnsons debut novel Everything Under a couple years ago but this one had me under its spell from the get go. Its one of those books where if you track the plot not much technically happens but within the psychology and attachment of the two sisters a whole world is growing and thriving. The closeness and codependency of July and This book was taut and stylized and had this rhythm to it where after a while it was hard to step out of the flow and go back to regular life. I wasn’t totally sold on Johnson’s debut novel Everything Under a couple years ago but this one had me under its spell from the get go. It’s one of those books where if you track the plot not much technically happens but within the psychology and attachment of the two sisters a whole world is growing and thriving. The closeness and codependency of July and September reminded me of the obsessive relationship between the three sisters in Sophie Mackintosh’s The Water Cure from last year. I don’t personally have a sister but I enjoy the dynamics of seeing them so claustrophobically portrayed in fiction. Our narrator, July, has a secret that she doesn’t know she’s hiding from us but when the twist is revealed towards the end I felt my body being fully awoken and it brought this book from a 4 to a 5 star book for me. The devotion July has for her sister is addictive and the prose is relentless and I think their relationship is what I will remember most when I think back on this book months from now. Thank you to Riverhead and Edelweiss for providing an eARC. I may just have to read this again when it comes out in print in August.
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  • Caroline Farrell
    January 1, 1970
    An eerie glimpse into the lives of haunted people, SISTERS is compelling and beautiful.Born just ten months apart, July and September are as close as twins, never needing anyone but each other. When their single mother moves them to Settle House, a palpable unease slowly emerges, as do a series of unsettling revelations that will keep you reading until the very end.Multi-faceted in theme and style, SISTERS creeps upon you and is completely absorbing.Published July 2020. My thanks to Netgalley An eerie glimpse into the lives of haunted people, SISTERS is compelling and beautiful.Born just ten months apart, July and September are as close as twins, never needing anyone but each other. When their single mother moves them to Settle House, a palpable unease slowly emerges, as do a series of unsettling revelations that will keep you reading until the very end.Multi-faceted in theme and style, SISTERS creeps upon you and is completely absorbing.Published July 2020. My thanks to Netgalley and Penguin for the opportunity to read this ARC.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    Sisters September and July, along with their mother Sheela have moved to Settle House near the cost of the North York Moors, following an incident in Oxford.The relationship between the sisters is at the focal point of the story. Inseparable to the extent that they isolate themselves from making new friends, and even their mother. September is very much the dominant older sister whose influence over July appears an abusive one. Playing games like, Hide and Seek and September Says, where July Sisters September and July, along with their mother Sheela have moved to Settle House near the cost of the North York Moors, following an incident in Oxford.The relationship between the sisters is at the focal point of the story. Inseparable to the extent that they isolate themselves from making new friends, and even their mother. September is very much the dominant older sister whose influence over July appears an abusive one. Playing games like, ‘Hide and Seek’ and ‘September Says’, where July carries out various tasks, one’s that at times inflict pain on herself and September. July questions Septembers motives, but certainly looks up to her sister and loves her unconditionally. Sheela who shares her perspective in part two, appears broken and isolated from her family. The destruction of her relationship with her daughters father, and the isolation from September and July. She is reminiscent of a time when the girls were younger and they were more of a trip than a duo. The novel concludes with a powerful and unexpected surprise, which to an extent left me feeling almost content with how some of the characters are left. Although in many ways upsetting, it seemed as if the gloom had been almost lifted from their lives.This books is phenomenal! I haven’t been absorbed by a book like this for years. Daisy Johnson’s writing very much reminds me of Shirley Jackson’s work and the haunting tension both authors seem to master, to make their stories unsettling, dark, in some ways relatable and yet addictive. I now want to read Everything Under by Johnson, and hope for more works such as this!
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  • James Orton
    January 1, 1970
    I have to sleep on this before a full review. There is SO much to process, it needs to do whatever it needs to do in my head before settling. As with Everything Under and Fen, the story, the characters and themes will keep returning to you long after youve closed the book. Not that sleep will come easy after Sisters.Another absolute tour de force from Daisy. Its like doing a few literary rounds with the heaviest of heavyweights, this novel seriously just keeps punching and doesnt hold back at I have to sleep on this before a full review. There is SO much to process, it needs to do whatever it needs to do in my head before settling. As with ‘Everything Under’ and ‘Fen’, the story, the characters and themes will keep returning to you long after you’ve closed the book. Not that sleep will come easy after ‘Sisters’.Another absolute tour de force from Daisy. It’s like doing a few literary rounds with the heaviest of heavyweights, this novel seriously just keeps punching and doesn’t hold back at all. A majestic piece of work.
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  • Sacha
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I'll post that review upon publication.
  • MisterHobgoblin
    January 1, 1970
    Sisters is a difficult book to review because there is a massive potential spoiler that must be avoided; and without referencing it, the review is really not getting to the point. But being obliged to post a review in exchange for early access to the title, needs must. July and September are sisters and the novel concerns a move from comfortable Oxford to the Settle House in an undisclosed northern location, probably somewhere near Whitby. Most of the novel is narrated by July, the slightly Sisters is a difficult book to review because there is a massive potential spoiler that must be avoided; and without referencing it, the review is really not getting to the point. But being obliged to post a review in exchange for early access to the title, needs must. July and September are sisters and the novel concerns a move from comfortable Oxford to the Settle House in an undisclosed northern location, probably somewhere near Whitby. Most of the novel is narrated by July, the slightly younger of the sisters (if you assume they were named for their birth month, this could place them only ten months apart and in the same UK school year). They are close (at lease according to July) almost to the point of telekinesis. At times, July feels as though they are the same person. Yet September seems to have an unhealthy and dangerous controlling influence over July. They are both somewhat emotionally stunted, turning to one another for company and friendship rather than building links with their fellow school students and this is not to their advantage. They are described as being very young for their age.Then there is Sheela, the mother. Sheela narrates a couple of small sections. She is a writer although she hides this talent well in her sections. She is an emotional wreck. Her life in Oxford has been uprooted; the sisters have driven her to making a bolt for the Settle House. This is one of those novels that Has a gentle and straightforward first half and then things go weird. And, as I often do, I think the straightforward section was more successful. It created some beautiful characters, a quietly unsettling scene and hints of darkness. Then when the weirdness starts, the lucidity evaporates and events are referenced in obviously and deliberately opaque terms. It really feels like a cop out. Writers from past times - Sheridan Le Fanu, for example - had no difficulty in creating strangeness while remaining quite lucid. Sarah Waters manages it in modern times. The strangeness should come from the ideas rather than the language. And Daisy Johnston was managing it perfectly well in the first half. Sisters is a short novel but the second half (from Sheela’s first narrative onwards) feels painfully long.
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  • Miss R
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.'Sisters' is a difficult novel to categorise and an even more difficult one to precis without giving way some dreaded spoilers. There is the twist at the end, of course, but this is not the essence of the book. Rather, the story is a powerful psychodrama about an extreme, co-dependent relationship between sisters. It is also about love in all its myriad forms. I am not talking about love that is necessarily a Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.'Sisters' is a difficult novel to categorise and an even more difficult one to precis without giving way some dreaded spoilers. There is the twist at the end, of course, but this is not the essence of the book. Rather, the story is a powerful psychodrama about an extreme, co-dependent relationship between sisters. It is also about love in all its myriad forms. I am not talking about love that is necessarily a positive expression of feelings, but a distorted form of love that threatens the very integrity of individual identity. If this is what Daisy Johnson has tried to convey in her sumptuous narrative, then she has indeed done a masterful job. As the novel progresses, the thin, almost gossamer-like thread that separates July and September as distinct persons, vanishes entirely. This is almost a cannibalistic relationship, with September the voracious eater of souls, and July her willing victim. The imagery in Johnsons lyrical, yet earthly prose, is evocative of the visceral limits of human bodies when the psychological limits of the individual has already been conquered. Contextualised within a dreamlike atmosphere, where the intrusions of modern life form a jarring juxtaposition, this is a novel of contrasts, fragmentation, and eventually all consuming, almost diabolical unity, that is co-dependency taken to extremes. I could say more, but I won't. Read this for yourself, and savour every page. Daisy Johnson is a born storyteller, with 'Sisters' an apt exemplar of her prodigious talent.
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  • Siobhan
    January 1, 1970
    Sisters is a disquieting novel about two sisters who've moved into an old house they used to visit when they were younger. July and September are sisters with a bond people don't understand. When something happens at school, their mother moves them across the country to a house on the Yorkshire moors. Free from rules and structure, the sisters can continue with their usual hobbies and traditions, but July feels something changing between them, and the house seems to have mysteries of its own. Sisters is a disquieting novel about two sisters who've moved into an old house they used to visit when they were younger. July and September are sisters with a bond people don't understand. When something happens at school, their mother moves them across the country to a house on the Yorkshire moors. Free from rules and structure, the sisters can continue with their usual hobbies and traditions, but July feels something changing between them, and the house seems to have mysteries of its own. This is a short novel that explores a complex sibling relationship with a gothic-tinged atmosphere, moving between the present and memories of the past as what happened to the sisters is revealed. The characters were intriguing (the narrative of the novel makes it important not to give away too much), though it did feel like lots of elements couldn't be explored much due to the length of the book. It probably benefited from going into the book not knowing anything really about it (which possibly makes reviewing it redundant) and I did find the style took a moment to settle into, but the tension was built up well and there were a lot of good little details about July and September that created an atmosphere and showed the darkness in their dynamic.Sisters is a difficult book to categorise, a kind of artsy gothic book with some thriller tropes and an interesting look at sibling dynamics at extremes that can be read in one or two sittings.
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  • Matthew Tett
    January 1, 1970
    Johnson's sophomore novel is an intense ride with July and September, two sisters from Oxford who move with their troubled, elusive mother to Yorkshire, to Settle House, a property belonging to their estranged Danish father's sister. One of the beauties of this book is the spare, sparse prose - and the insight readers get into the lives of July and September.It is clear from the outset that the girls, very close in age, are so very alike in many ways - but that September, the older of the two, Johnson's sophomore novel is an intense ride with July and September, two sisters from Oxford who move with their troubled, elusive mother to Yorkshire, to Settle House, a property belonging to their estranged Danish father's sister. One of the beauties of this book is the spare, sparse prose - and the insight readers get into the lives of July and September.It is clear from the outset that the girls, very close in age, are so very alike in many ways - but that September, the older of the two, controls many things that July does. They ramble around Settle House, doing what they want, when they want, all unbeknownst to their mother, someone who is evidently in pain as she writes about the lives of her daughter, particularly that of September.Spoiling the plot and the twist would be easy and I am not going to do this. Johnson weaves a tale here which works in different ways: it is fantastical, with July and September living a free life, behaving as they wish; is it also sad, with Johnson clearly stating how bullying affected the girls; it is also thought-provoking in so many ways, specifically towards the end when the novel comes together and all becomes clear. Saying any more at this stage would be damaging to future readers.I haven't yet read 'Everything Under', Johnson's debut, but it is now on my list - and I am sure this young writer's first book will not disappoint.
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  • Clare
    January 1, 1970
    September and July are sisters but also so much more. September speaks for July, so much so that July barely knows who she is anymore. The girls move across the country with their mother after an unspecified incident and find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. A house that creaks and rumbles and seems to absorb and feed the girls claustrophobia. Anyone familiar with the real life story of the silent twins, June and Jennifer Gibbons will see echoes of their story in this book. The girls bond September and July are sisters but also so much more. September speaks for July, so much so that July barely knows who she is anymore. The girls move across the country with their mother after an unspecified incident and find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. A house that creaks and rumbles and seems to absorb and feed the girl’s claustrophobia. Anyone familiar with the real life story of the silent twins, June and Jennifer Gibbons will see echoes of their story in this book. The girl’s bond is fearsome and excludes their mother who seems to have detached herself and given up on any meaningful relationship with the sisters. This is a brief novel, running in at just under 200 pages, but there’s much to draw from here. The language is beautiful and September and July’s relationship within the setting of the house feels genuinely suffocating. September is a constant lose cannon, an engineer who comes to install the internet finds his tools mysteriously going walkabout while July is struck mute at the possibility of telling him where they are. There’s a real one two sucker punch of an ending which was enough to send this reader leafing back through, searching for clues. This is going to be one of the stand out books of 2020 and I’ve no doubt it’ll appear on many an end of year ‘best of’ list. I’d strongly advise diving into September and July’s intense world, if only for a brief time. I received a ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
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  • Renee
    January 1, 1970
    July and September are sisters born ten months apart. Their single mother Sheela watches as the girls create a bond, that leaves little room for anyone else, even their mother. September is more outgoing and often protects her younger sister. July is relentlessly bullied at school, and an incident forces the family to flee Oxford. The Settle House is old, run-down, and the walls seem to hold secrets of the past. Maybe this is because it is now owned by the sister of Sheela's deceased husband July and September are sisters born ten months apart. Their single mother Sheela watches as the girls create a bond, that leaves little room for anyone else, even their mother. September is more outgoing and often protects her younger sister. July is relentlessly bullied at school, and an incident forces the family to flee Oxford. The Settle House is old, run-down, and the walls seem to hold secrets of the past. Maybe this is because it is now owned by the sister of Sheela's deceased husband Peter, the father of the girls. The story is mainly told from July and Sheela's perspectives, and what a tale they tell. Ghosts from the past have followed them, some from when Sheela and Peter were together, and some from July and September's lives in Oxford.At this point, it becomes difficult to delve into the plot without entering spoiler territory. I can say that a revealing moment, made everything much more clear. The book was creepy, surreal, and the language is beautiful. This is the first book I have read by Daisy Johnson, and it will not be my last. I am a reader always looking to figure out what happened and why, but I think most of the enjoyment of Sisters was in the journey, not the destination. Also, the cover is stunning!I received a DRC from Riverhead Books through Edelweiss +.
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  • Mary Collins
    January 1, 1970
    Daisy Johnson is a truly remarkable writer, and Sisters is a short, sharp shock to the system.The phrase genre-defying is bandied about a lot these days, but Johnsons writing to me really is impossible to define. In Sisters July and September (separated in age by less than a year) have moved with their writer mother from their home in Oxford to the ramshackle Yorkshire house where September was born, following an incident at school. As their mother retreats into the darkness of her room, the Daisy Johnson is a truly remarkable writer, and ‘Sisters’ is a short, sharp shock to the system.The phrase ‘genre-defying’ is bandied about a lot these days, but Johnson’s writing to me really is impossible to define. In ‘Sisters’ July and September (separated in age by less than a year) have moved with their writer mother from their home in Oxford to the ramshackle Yorkshire house where September was born, following an incident at school. As their mother retreats into the darkness of her room, the sisters are left to fend for themselves. As their relationship becomes ever more entwined and complicated, a shocking truth about the past is revealed, and their future is thrown into disarray.Johnson has a unique and startling writing style which I can imagine some people struggling with but which I find incredibly effective. She is excellent at depicting the difficult relationship between the sisters- I was reminded at times of the titular ‘Twins’ in Marcy Dermansky’s excellent book as well as the sisters in Audrey Niffenegger’s less enjoyable ‘Her Fearful Symmetry.’ I haven’t yet read Johnson’s previous works, but I am going to order them ASAP following ‘Sisters.’ A haunting, unsettling dark fairytale that will stay with me for a long time!Thank you to Random House and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review
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  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    Psychological horrorSisters September and July were born within ten months of each other. They are closer than close. After an incident at school in Oxford, their mother takes them to live in the abandoned family home on the coast. Approaching adulthood, July feels something shift in the bond with her sister. An intense and unsettling study of sibling dynamics, with themes of depression, bereavement and bullying.Johnson masterfully builds the sinister atmosphere. In her hands, the coastal home Psychological horrorSisters September and July were born within ten months of each other. They are closer than close. After an incident at school in Oxford, their mother takes them to live in the abandoned family home on the coast. Approaching adulthood, July feels something shift in the bond with her sister. An intense and unsettling study of sibling dynamics, with themes of depression, bereavement and bullying.Johnson masterfully builds the sinister atmosphere. In her hands, the coastal home takes on an ever-watchful presence. No character or detail is extraneous. Once or twice, her imagery obtrudes on the story, where it sounds beautiful but leaves the reader wondering what it actually means. However, these are rare occurrences in otherwise surgically precise language.(view spoiler)[Even though the reader can guess where the story is going, the writing is so good, it is just a pleasure to see how Johnson will take us there. The plot is reminiscent of The Other and, in one particular scene, of Helen Reddy's 'Angie Baby'. (hide spoiler)]Satisfyingly disturbing.Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the ARC.
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  • Stephen Baird
    January 1, 1970
    Just having finished Fen I was delighted to see that Sisters was up for request on NetGalley.I loved Daisy Johnson's writing style in Fen, the giver of secrets and revealer of ancient mythologies. This continues in Sisters, on the surface a story of an intense sibling relationship and of modern calamities.September is the oldest of the two sisters, with July coming along less than a year after. September is the dominant personality in the family, July follows on.September is the builder of Just having finished Fen I was delighted to see that Sisters was up for request on NetGalley.I loved Daisy Johnson's writing style in Fen, the giver of secrets and revealer of ancient mythologies. This continues in Sisters, on the surface a story of an intense sibling relationship and of modern calamities.September is the oldest of the two sisters, with July coming along less than a year after. September is the dominant personality in the family, July follows on.September is the builder of tales, mythologies, and games. This leads to some very dark places that July has little choice but to follow.Exiled to Yorkshire, to Settle House on the coast after an unexplained incident the darkness and claustrophobia of the house and the memories it invokes (it was their father's house) twists and becomes part of the revelations of that incident.As you tumble through the story you get caught up in the feverish telling of stories, of the mixing of narratives, of being in someones skin and behind their eyes.Promises are made to be kept and the conclusion brings that around so frighteningly.Absolutely stunning work, if I was you I would preorder this ready for July and dive in as soon as you get it.
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  • Scott Vine
    January 1, 1970
    I thought Daisy Johnson's last novel, Everything Under should have won the Booker Prize, so I was very much looking forward to reading 'Sisters'. Thankfully, it did not let me down. What was odd was that prior to reading this I had just finished Polly Crosby's - The Illustrated Child . There is a lot of similarity in the books both in themes and set up both have parents who are artists who have including their children in their books, both feature one parent escaping to the country with the I thought Daisy Johnson's last novel, Everything Under should have won the Booker Prize, so I was very much looking forward to reading 'Sisters'. Thankfully, it did not let me down. What was odd was that prior to reading this I had just finished Polly Crosby's - The Illustrated Child . There is a lot of similarity in the books both in themes and set up – both have parents who are artists who have including their children in their books, both feature one parent escaping to the country with the children; and both are not as straightforward as you might think. And, that is the problem with trying to review either book. It is hard to say much about what happens in the books without spoiling them. Sisters is, at its heart, a book about just that – sisters. It is about sibling rivalry, envy, love, jealousy and about a childhood promise forged between them. It also touches on grief, mental illness and much more.Sisters doesn't quite have a lyrical splendour of Everything Under, but still marks Johnson as one f the best young writers out there at this moment in time.I received an ARC from Netgalley for review.
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  • cailleach
    January 1, 1970
    July and September are sisters, born 10 months apart but totally inseperable. They have blocked out their depressed mother who seems to avoid contact with them and have their own language, rituals and life seperate from the rest of society. Something very bad has happened in their school in Oxford and their mother moves them up north to the coast to the sanctuary of a rather creepy house belonging to their dead father's sister. The narrative was a bit difficult to navigate at first as he story July and September are sisters, born 10 months apart but totally inseperable. They have blocked out their depressed mother who seems to avoid contact with them and have their own language, rituals and life seperate from the rest of society. Something very bad has happened in their school in Oxford and their mother moves them up north to the coast to the sanctuary of a rather creepy house belonging to their dead father's sister. The narrative was a bit difficult to navigate at first as he story is told through July's eyes, then third person (almost as if the house is speaking), the mother and then July again. Through this we get an insight into what has been happening. There are some twists in the plot so I won't spoiler. I was really drawn into this book, so if you struggle perservere, it is worth it. I think the co dependent relationship between the sisters is really well described, how the dominant September rules July and how disaster might strike if July follows her own path. vaguely meancing and sinister with some powerful writing that captures the "outsider" feelings of youth.
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  • Verity Halliday
    January 1, 1970
    Sisters by Daisy Johnson is a creepy and complex novel exploring the close relationship between teenage sisters July and September. I spent most of the time a bit confused as the book moved between different places and time periods, but I found the viscerally described atmosphere so engaging that I didn't mind. Everything became much clearer by the end of the book. I really related to the distant and depressed mother - not sure what that says about me!Having enjoyed Everything Under by the same Sisters by Daisy Johnson is a creepy and complex novel exploring the close relationship between teenage sisters July and September. I spent most of the time a bit confused as the book moved between different places and time periods, but I found the viscerally described atmosphere so engaging that I didn't mind. Everything became much clearer by the end of the book. I really related to the distant and depressed mother - not sure what that says about me!Having enjoyed Everything Under by the same author, I found the descriptions of place to be just as memorable, sinister and gothic. Johnson does not shy away from describing smells and textures to conjure up dank and fetid places. This, together with the disturbing and dysfunctional relationship between the sisters, meant that the book was not exactly fun to read, although I think it was definitely worth the time.A recommended read for those who like their psychological thrillers to be creepy but literary.Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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  • Jill Westerman
    January 1, 1970
    July and her sister September move with their mother Sheela from Oxford to a crumbling house in Whitby which was the birthplace of their Danish father, who died some time before. The reader is drawn into Julys world: she is enjoined in an almost symbiotic relationship with her sister and feels the house as a living entity, breathing and groaning around them. Their mother retreats to bed, food appears and things are cleaned sporadically, July imagines her mother emerges to do these at night when July and her sister September move with their mother Sheela from Oxford to a crumbling house in Whitby which was the birthplace of their Danish father, who died some time before. The reader is drawn into July’s world: she is enjoined in an almost symbiotic relationship with her sister and feels the house as a living entity, breathing and groaning around them. Their mother retreats to bed, food appears and things are cleaned sporadically, July imagines her mother emerges to do these at night when the sisters are asleep.Slowly the reason why they needed to move from Oxford are revealed (unnecessarily signalled in the Good Reads blurbJ as July continues to be dominated by the almost malign presence of September.The tone is Gothic and the writing poetic and lyrical, with the odd infelitious phrase (eg ‘the mice were breeding like rabbits under the floorboards’). I was gripped by the novel, which is short and can be read in a couple of sittings. It is a very good second novel from Daisy Johnson. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a review copy.
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  • Cat Chapman
    January 1, 1970
    "I know a September," was the thought that recurred in every page, which made the rise and fall of action all the much more uncomfortable and thrilling. This is the first story in a while that's moved me to tears, not out of happiness or sentiment, but instead out of a raw, scared reminiscence to just how psychologically enduring closeness can be. For me, books about adolescence generally impart that great sense of inescapable unease, and this was rife with it. Reminded me of The Water Cure for "I know a September," was the thought that recurred in every page, which made the rise and fall of action all the much more uncomfortable and thrilling. This is the first story in a while that's moved me to tears, not out of happiness or sentiment, but instead out of a raw, scared reminiscence to just how psychologically enduring closeness can be. For me, books about adolescence generally impart that great sense of inescapable unease, and this was rife with it. Reminded me of The Water Cure for the elements of sisters enmeshed; the at once empowering and toxic feeling of navigating the relationship with cruel women who tell you they are close to you.I could have also written "oof!" like 600 times to give the same impression I'm feeling this review gives, but I won't. ARC provided by Riverhead, acquired through my place of work, Oxford Exchange bookstore in Tampa, FL.
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