A Sisters Book Flight

Many of my favorite classics feature sisters. Instead of including the Bennet sisters or the little Ingalls, I’m focusing on modern classics some of which give a distinct nod to the aforementioned sisters.

After choosing this flight and writing these reviews, all I can think of is Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye dressed up in sequins and boas singing, “sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters,” in White Christmas.

I’ll leave you with that image and these four fun reads about sisters.

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

I’m a Katherine Reay fan! She writes emotionally driven novels with nods to Austen (and other great literature) without being straight up fan fiction. (Though there’s nothing wrong with a Mr. Darcy’s Diary or Lost in Austen, both of which are on my bookshelf next to Reay’s fantastic first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley.) Her novels have originality while maintaining the substance of classics.

In this, her second, novel, Katherine tells Lizzy’s story. Lizzy is a talented chef who has lost her food inspiration. Her sister, Jane, has cancer. Together, they have a messy sibling relationship that keeps getting more complicated. I love how Reay adds modern elements, like the importance of social media hype to new businesses, in a timeless fashion. Lizzy and Jane gives an intimate look at caregiving and what you can learn about others by what they read.

If any of this review piques your interest, check out the interview I did with Katherine on Kindred Grace. We talk about why classics are appealing, what she hopes her novels will be saying years from now, and the challenges of incorporating classics into her own work. 

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

A friend with excellent taste recommended this to me and I can’t resist her suggestions, rabbits, or a New England setting. The Penderwicks is a an absolutely heartwarming  middle grade novel about four motherless sisters who spend a Summer on the grounds of a sprawling estate in Massachusetts with their father. Adventures ensue and I loved every minute. Jeanne Birdsall captures the tipping of child into adolescence so perfectly with the oldest sister, Rosalind. I cannot wait to read these with my kids and to finish the series (four books altogether) myself.

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hilary Manton Lodge 

Jane Austen created several recognizable sets of sisters, two of which can be found in Sense and Sensibility, her novel about practical Elinor and fanciful Marianne. In Jane of Austin, Lodge has modernized the Dashwood’s story, putting the sisters in a Texas setting as tea shop owners. For me, Jane Austen retellings always have the potential to be too similar to the original (Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope) thus boring, or too convoluted that they miss the appeal of the original (The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine ).

Jane of Austin was the perfect fusion of contemporary and classic with a fun Southern twist. Here are a few things I loved: I’m not always a fan of quotes to start chapters, but these were diverse, contributed to moving the plot along and alternated in subject depending on the narrator of the chapter (clever!). The author is a foodie and she includes a few recipes scattered throughout the novel. They were actually things I’d like to make. Plus, her use of food in the novel is tastefully done, not excessive. Sweetly romantic AND clean. The 10 discussion questions included at the end went beyond plot-points. The cover is lovely.

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

The well-known set of sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is loosely based on the author and her own three sisters. One of those sisters, Abigail May (went by May), is the subject of The Other Alcott. May is plagued by the fictional reputation of Amy March in Louisa’s utterly successful novel and burdened by the underlying competition between herself and her older sister. The novel follows May as she wriggles out from under the control of her sister, trying to establish herself as an artist.

This book was such a pleasure to read. Elise Hopper brings the Alcott family to life. I learned so much about art in the nineteenth century and I loved seeing how May’s journey intersected with familiar painters like Degas and Cassatt.

What is your favorite book about sisters?

A book flight is a curated sampling of reading material that shares some defining quality: theme, setting, time frame, subject matter, etc. Like a beverage flight, the samples are selected with care and presented together intentionally with the purpose of expanding the sampler’s horizons, developing literary discernment, and encouraging reflection and analysis as she considers, compares, and contrasts each book.

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