Her arrival will ruin everything.
Kate and Lauren. Sisters who are always there for each other. But as they gather for their weekly Sunday lunch, a knock on the door changes everything.
The new arrival, Jess, claims to be their half-sister, but that would mean the unthinkable . . . That she’s the secret daughter of their beloved, recently deceased father Harry. Their mother Rose is devastated and Kate and Lauren refuse to believe Jess’s lies.
But as the fall-out starts it’s clear that each is hiding secrets and that perhaps this family isn’t as perfect as they appear.
Where there was truth, now there are lies and only one thing is certain, their half-sister’s arrival has ruined everything . . .
Set in London, Sandie Jones’ The Half Sister is a psychological family drama that kicks off when an illegitimate sibling turns up to a Sunday lunch family gathering.
Until the tail end of the book, this reads like a family saga more than the thriller we’re promised. Kate and Lauren buried their father one year earlier, and are shocked when “Jess” turns up and claims to be their half sister. Kate refuses to believe their father was unfaithful to their mother Rose. Lauren welcomes Jess with open arms, desperate to believe her.
The premise is intriguing and will capture a reader, and there are elements to the story that readers will enjoy. The ‘psychological thriller’ doesn’t weave its way into the novel until at least halfway, but the tension between family members is engaging enough to maintain interest.
“When Simon was working, the pressure eased off a little, as Lauren didn’t need to worry so much about where the next penny was coming from. But on the occasions he was laid off, which as a labourer on a building site were often, both their purse strings and Simon’s moods, Lauren noticed, were more difficult to manage.”
Kate is envious of her sister’s life, because Lauren is married with three children and Kate is desperately trying to conceive a baby with her husband. Lauren is envious of Kate because Lauren’s husband is controlling and abusive, and Kate’s life seems incredibly glamorous and not weighed down by children. Each sister doesn’t realise just how much the other is struggling.
Kate and Lauren can both be pretty unlikeable. Lauren is trapped in a loveless marriage and clings to a complete stranger for friendship. Kate is incredibly dismissive to the possibility she has a half sister — her relationship with Lauren has no resemblance of chemistry or familial bond. I found both characters — and Simon — to be like cardboard cut-outs.
“Whilst Lauren worked twelve-hour shifts on nigh-on minimum wage, Kate had gleefully regaled her with regular jet-setting jaunts to meet the stars. If she wasn’t in LA interviewing A-listers, she was on tour with pop stars. Lauren has lost count of how many times Kate had attended the red carpet at the Oscars.”
Whilst the novel as a whole is interesting and you will keep reading to find out whether Jess really is who she says she is, there were some flaws that were hard to ignore. The ‘villain’ of the book was obvious from quite early on, so when the murder mystery does present itself the reader will already feel like they know who is responsible.
Not only did Simon feel stereotypical, but the climax and resolution of his character was brief and unsatisfying. There’s a lot of build up for his character to really explode, and then he disappears rather quickly — the ‘danger’ no longer present.
There was a distinct lack of believability to Jess and Lauren’s friendship. I believed Kate’s reaction more than Lauren’s, because Lauren’s decision-making felt farfetched and unrealistic.
Lastly, it’s awfully convenient that Lauren has a childhood memory of her Dad and a woman with a pram. That one memory pushed the story forward quite a few times and it seemed a little too good to be true.
“Lauren is on cloud nine when she wakes up and realises that the plethora of dreams she’d had were just a realistic extension of the evening she’d had. She smiles, desperate to stay in her happy cocoon for just a little bit longer.”
Recommended for fans of family sagas and family dramas.
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Half Sister
Pan Macmillan Publishers