The Good Sister…
Two Isobels. A lifetime of regret. A love that spans the years
In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for. Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.
In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood and overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control and, almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.
What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future?
I’ve long enjoyed a Scottish novel, be it in setting, written by a Scottish author, or both. The Good Sister sits well within my Scottish reading repertoire and Australian author Maggie Christensen, hailing originally from Scotland herself, has done a fine job of authenticity. Told with a dual timeline narrative, this story about a niece and her aunt was engaging from the first page through to the last. I barely put it down and read it over three sittings. Indeed, I got to the end and was somewhat at a loss as to what I was going to read next, I had been enjoying The Good Sister so much that I was reluctant to let it go.
Maggie has a strong sense of time and place, her descriptions vivid and true to whatever era her characters are inhabiting at the time. This was as much a heartwarming story as it was a poignant one. Regret and misunderstanding colour much of the older Isobel’s experiences while past hurts and repressed guilt taint the younger Isobel. Yet both of these women are very likeable and highly relatable and I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite between them, having enjoyed both of their stories equally. I finished the novel with a couple of unanswered questions, but on the whole, both stories wrapped up very nicely.
Maggie’s focus on mature women is quite refreshing to approach. I am new to Maggie’s work but I certainly look forward to reading more of her novels. I believe this is her first foray into historical fiction. If so, she has a done a sterling job of it and I encourage her to continue – for my sake, if not her own!
Thanks is extended to the author for gifting me with a copy of The Good Sister for review.
The Good Sister is book 70 in my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.