I have been infatuated with Daisy Johnson’s writing for a while now; so much so that I’ve gone ahead and put her previous novel Everything Under on the curriculum for my last Intro to English Literature tutorial. I adored her take on the enigma that is home, hometowns, family, and the complex feelings surrounding all of it. Therefore, when her most recent novel Sisters was announced, I was both elated and scared – how could a follow-up even begin to keep up with Everything Under?
Sheer, raw brilliance, that is how. Sisters is a blow straight to your gut and invokes all those dreaded feelings of Am I good enough? Am I who I should be? Am I okay? in the most relatable of all ways. Like Everything Under, Sisters too is one of those novels that takes you on a trip to reveal a whole lot of yourself between the blanks of someone else’s words. It’s magical, it’s uncomfortable.
The plot of Sisters revolves around the two sisters July and September, and their move to Settle House. There had been an incident at their school back in Oxford that eventually causes their mother Sheela to pack up shop and move them away from their home. The two sisters settle in, while Sheela battles her own demons.
I think then, as I have so many times, she is the person I have always wanted to be. I am a shape cut out of the universe, tinged with ever-dying stars- and that she is the creature to fill the gap I leave in the world.
What sounds like the plot of a coming-of-age novel is, in fact, a novel that feels more like gothic fiction or psychological suspense than anything else. It’s not horror, and it does not try to be, but it does keep you on the edge of your seat and your heart racing. There’s something about the whole old house in the middle of nowhere concept that draws me to novels like Sisters; it’s the eeriness you can’t quite put your finger on, an eeriness that lingers beneath innocent but creaking floor boards and in dusty closets and the handwriting of people long gone. Sisters isn’t going to outright scare you, but it’s going to take you to lonely beaches and dark pantries and stormy nights, and you’ll have to make yourself at home in between.
Sisters is a short read. A part of me wishes it was longer, but the other part knows that it would be an entirely different novel, an entirely different story than it is. No matter how much I want to go back and spend more time in Settle House and its dark, unsettling atmosphere, I do acknowledge that part of this novel’s inescapable charm is its brevity. The novel does not feel fast-paced per se, but it breathes down your neck until you find yourself racing through the pages. It’s everything; and it’s everything post-millenial gothic needs to be. I am, as I have been before, infatuated with Daisy Johnson’s writing, and this instant classic has done its fair share to illicit those feelings in me.