Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review of Sisterhood Everlasting, Ann Brashares.

**Spoilers lurk in this entire post. Just in case you're not a fan of them.**

In case you'd thought I'd forgotten about books, fear not! I have been momentarily distracted by sexist freakshows, stunning wedding dresses and the whole why-must-men-be-so-hard-to-understand.
Can't help really thinking these are related, however distantly.
Anyway, back to a book post. 

High school was a massive pain in the butt. Rather than being shuttled off to the same school as my friends, I was shoved off to a private school that was opposite a beach.
Sharpes Beach, Skennars Head. Along this highway, the surfie
kids on the bus would all simultaneously turn to stare at the waves,
either in horror or in ecstasy. 
I think that was about the plus of my high school years, until every single resident of every city in the country decided to move around the school and block off any view I had out the window during Maths.
Anyway, I couldn't spend all day in a second-storey classroom, gazing at the ocean despondently and wishing I was looking at the llamas instead which were reportedly a fixture at Alstonville High. For one, the teachers glared at anyone left hovering inside the mustard-yellow rooms (clearly designed to send students to early insanity), and also, it would have cemented my position as social outcast.
So I chose the next most likely route to social leprosy - I spent my lunchtimes in the library. 
The library was a thing of solace in the outer regions of purgatory - which high school most certainly was; I missed the freedom of primary school, and I just wanted to get out and flee to the comforts of university - and I relished the time spent there. In year 7, it was squashed into the two old drama classrooms at the bottom of C Block (a 'soothing' - read, depressing - blue). Later it moved into a designated library, and that place was heaven.
I became pretty good pals with the librarian, Gloria. Gloria was brilliant, having noticed my penchant for borrowing a book, and returning it the next day with a fairly solid review. However, she also noticed that I tended to, in my nostalgia for primary school, stuck to the novels I'd discovered there. She made me a proposition.
"Read this book," she said, sliding a novel across the counter towards me, "and you can borrow three books."
The book she gave me?
Obviously, it's a new release cover, but
I do like this pretty version.
At this stage, I only slightly trusted Gloria. I didn't trust her enough to fully submit to the books she gave me, but enough that I'd take the book in order to borrow three.
(Also, she threatened that she'd not allow me to borrow books I'd read already.)
And. I. Loved. It.
Yeah, unnecessary punctuation, but you get it.

Enough about my high school experiences and Gloria. We'll fast-forward six years to Friday July 1, 2011.
I went into work and sitting next to our new-release table was a glorious new stand. I didn't really pay it much mind as I saw the four bottom titles. I'd already read the Sisterhood books and I could practically recite them, but it was handy; now, I could refer them to customers.
Yet on the Saturday, I noticed the fifth novel on the stand, bought it on the Sunday, and devoured it in an afternoon.
If you've read the Sisterhood novels, it goes without saying - you must read this book.
If you've not read the Sisterhood novels - you must read this book.
(If someone has read it without reading the first four, is it confusing?)

As most teen novels do, Sisterhood Everlasting deals with the themes of friendship, love, loss and family. However, what's interesting is that it's ten years later. The characters are firmly ensconced in adult lives, and those themes are nicely translated without turning into vapid chick-lit (see: Louise Bagshawe, Venus Envy, avoid if you can). The girls and their partners have moved away from each other, and are facing life without each other - and, more importantly, without the ritual of the pants to remind them of the friendship. Lena, half-heartedly seeing a nondescript sandwich maker, lives in Providence and teaches at RISD. Carmen has become a successful actress in New York, engaged to Jones (universally hated). Bridget and Eric are in San Francisco, where Bridget temps - still the free spirit - and Eric is a lawyer. Tibby and Brian have moved to Australia, for Brian's gaming work. 
Yet out of the blue, letters arrive for Lena, Bridget and Carmen. Tibby has organised a trip to Santorini (the island where Lena's grandparents used to live), and the three meet her there.
Tibby suddenly dies, drowning in the Caldera. And afterwards, as the girls have to deal with this in their own ways, the novel charts what happens when they're apart.

It's a fantastic read, and I very much enjoyed stepping back into these characters' lives. Brashares knows these characters inside-out, and this was far better than her other efforts. (My Name Is Memory appears to be completely stolen from Lauren Kate's Fallen; correct me if I'm wrong, but the covers/synopses/names seem eerily alike. Three Willows was a bad follow-up to the awesomeness of the Sisterhood.) I know that many people are horrified at the concept of authors continually revisiting characters, but I think this was a perfect and completely necessary addition to the series. I'm a sucker for the Lena-Kostos romance, and it thankfully resurfaces and reaches a delightfully satisfying conclusion. (The fourth novel didn't wrap it up at all and this angered me a teeny tiny little bit. Okay, maybe a lot.) And it's nice to see the characters maturing and growing, while still retaining their essential personalities. Bridget is still the free-wheeling, vaguely immature, je ne sais quoi Bridget that we were introduced to in books 1-4, but she's forced to grow up and forced to stop running from her problems. Carmen is still as dramatic as ever - her scene on the train with Roberto and his kids made me naww all over the place. Lena, still as shy as ever and as insecure of her relationship with Kostos, though I admit I was very surprised to see that she was the one teaching. 
What did irritate me was Eric's personality - really, the entire Bridget-Eric relationship. Eric was painted as a completely passive character, contrary to the Eric we were introduced to in the first novel. Actually, it wasn't passiveness. He treated Bridget with the weariness of a father with a toddler. And Bridget, for the majority of this novel, acted like a child in a very unappealing way for someone who was meant to be 28/29. I suppose it suited when she was eighteen, but not now. It did amuse me when she went out to Australia, how Brian noted that toddler Bailey (Tibby and Brian's daughter) and nearly-thirty Bridget were very alike. Oh Brian, how you hit that nail on the head. 
Yet how Bridget just upped and left, cheated on Eric, failed to tell him about the pregnancy until 20 weeks in and expected him to be all howdy-do about it? Painful. Just... so very painful. Eric gave her $10,000, and she says 'sayonara' and flees across the world with nary a word? 
Eric, maybe you're stronger than I am, and maybe you're old before your time, having looked after Toddler Bridget for too long. But I'd be donning my Goodbye Hat and leaving long before it got to the $10,000 stage.

Lena and Kostos finally getting together made me squirm with glee. 
"Hey," he said. "It's someday." He said the last word in Greek.
Overall, I'd give this book 4 stars. My irritation with Bridget made me want to attack her with a copy of the novel, and shout at her "YOU ARE NEARLY THIRTY, WOMAN, STOP BEING SO DARN FLIGHTY AND IRRESPONSIBLE". I know, I know. Homage to Marly and how she couldn't cope yet Bridget now can. WHAT. EVER.
Everything else in the novel? Perfection. Go pick it up somewhere (support a local bookstore, because stupid Amazon bought out Book Depository and my sadpandaface is firmly on). I got mine for $25; RRP is $29.99.
You'll adore it.
I hope.

I'll get back to the thirty days of books tomorrow, kay?
I've given up le Fachebook for a month and as a result, I'm mainly tweeting from my phone. First time in forever I've hooked up the phone to the laptop. 

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