The Sister is Louise Jensen’s debut novel, and she’s off to a strong start. She has written a dark tale of betrayal, paranoia and plenty of twists.
The story goes thus: Grace, the main character, is struggling after the death of Charlie, her best friend from childhood. She digs up an old letter that they buried together, and her mind is filled with their past. Before Charlie died, she made some troubling comments, and Grace wonders what was behind them. She begins to dig into her friend’s history, and unearths far more than she planned.
The tale switches between the present day and various stages of Grace’s childhood. Sometimes this can be jarring in books, but I actually liked the style here. Grace has a number of insecurities, and it is easy to see why they manifested throughout her journey to adulthood. You also see how Grace and Charlie became so close, and as the novel progresses, how the cracks in their group of friends formed. It also shows how an error of judgement can have massive ramifications.
The book claims to be ‘A psychological thriller with a brilliant twist you won’t see coming.’ Having finished it, I can say that this was the case. I thought I could see where the story was going pretty early on. However, it turned out that my instincts were completely off, but the conclusion was satisfying.
What drew me in most was Louise Jensen’s writing style. The characters did not leap off the page. Instead, they brought me into their world, which I think is more difficult to accomplish. I got a feel for every character, from Grace’s grandparents, to Charlie’s alcoholic mother, Lexie.
The plot also flowed coherently. A lot of the characters make horrendous decisions, but none of it feels forced. I felt like I had grown to know them. Their mistakes felt like things that those people would do, rather than just plot devices to get the story moving. There were times where I thought something was inconsistent, only for the story’s conclusion to reveal that it had made perfect sense all along. No one was just plain good or bad either. Some acts, cruel as they were, still had motives. This didn’t justify them, but it made their decisions believable.
The descriptions are great as well. If Grace is at a beach, you know just what the beach is like. If she’s at school, you can almost smell the students’ plimsolls. The cottage she lives in comes to life to the extent that it feels like a real place. I don’t really know what it was about the descriptions, I just didn’t have to work very hard to visualise most scenes in the novel.
If I had to make a criticism, I’d say that there were a few typos hidden in the pages. However, nothing massive, and frankly, I’m splitting hairs here. In my opinion, Louise Jensen’s debut novel is a triumph, and I am already impatient for another.