Sisters. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. The bane of our lives and also our source of comfort, fun and family, they drive us round the bend and keep us sane.
Too often, we see treacly sweet portrayals of siblings in books and on TV, that don’t feel like they’re truly capturing the sibling experience. How you can go from screaming at one another over clothes from one minute to gabbing about the latest celebrity gossip the next.
But there are some books out there that just hit the nail on the head. They perfectly show all the intimate and complex parts of being sisters – the love, the competition, the snapping and making up – it all in there!
‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen
People may think Jane and Lizzie are the perfect sister pair that fall into that sickly sweet category, but Lizzie and Jane actually push one another a lot to think outside of their own prejudices. Jane is too quick to fall back into her wallflower tendencies, and is super hard on herself when it looks like Bingely has moved on. But Lizzie is there with the tough love she needs to go out and chase her dream by going to London for the season. In a ying and yang kind of way, the build one another up and talk one another down, like Jane urging Lizzie to see more to people like D’Arcy and not dismiss people upon her first impression. Jane’s gentleness tempers Lizzie’s feistiness and Lizzie’s self-belief props up Jane’s lack of confidence – the perfect example of sisters being different, but perfect together.
‘The Glorious Guinness Girls’ by Emily Hourican
This historical fiction centres around three sisters, the daughter of the Guinness empire, Oonagh, Maureen and Aileen and their sisterly relationship is one of the more real ones out there. Three distinct women with very different personalities, they clash as often as they come together. They display family dynamics expertly, with Maureen, the ever dramatic middle child, Aileen, the responsible eldest and Oonagh, the dreamy and earnest youngest. Despite all the trials that their upbringing and historical era present, the sisters core family bonds remain strong, no matter where the winds of time scatter them.
‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott
Who hasn’t tried to identify with either talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, or romantic, spoiled Amy? We all have wanted to be a March sister at some point, as they explore love and death, war and peace, the conflict of personal ambition versus family loyalties. Their closeness is almost unrivalled in literary history and we envy their ability to put their drama aside and unite as a devoted front, even with men, differing ideals, illness and poverty constantly trying to tear them apart.
‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ by Philippa Gregory
Is there any sister rivalry as iconic as Mary and Anne Boleyn? We don’t think so! These sisters bring unmatched levels of drama as they vie and compete for the king’s attention, their family’s validation and soon, for their lives. One of the most cut throat sibling relationships on paper, they are used as pawns against one another constantly, and it seems they’ll never overcome the manipulations to take fate into their own hands – but the bonds of sisters – and friends – raised together aren’t so easily broken. Overcoming the forces working against them, all that matters in the end is each other.
‘Savage Her Reply’ by Deirdre Sullivan
We adore this dark, feminist retelling of The Children of Lir told in Sullivan's hypnotic prose. Told from the ‘evil stepmother’s’ perspective, we see Aífe torn away from her beloved sister to marry her other sister’s husband, Lir. In the retelling we see how love for her sisters motivates Aífe and we see a whole new side to the story. Sisters willing to do anything, go anywhere, be anything for each other are ripped apart by the circumstances that the men in their lives create for them and in the end, it is only that love for one another that matters – but that’s not what history remembers of them.