The Sisters’ Song by Louise Allan
Published by Allen & Unwin
Date: 2 January 2017
I literally felt my breath being taken away as I finished the very last chapter of The Sisters’ Song, debut author Louise Allan managed to etch away at my emotions as I followed the lives of Ida and Nora. My being was shattered when I least expected it and I choked out loud that I was going to cry now, I didn’t see it coming, I never imagined it would and I was devastated.
The Sisters’ Song is set in Rural Tasmania between the 1920’s and the 1990’s, where you find yourself entwined in the lives of Ida and Nora, two very different sisters yet both needing each other when neither of their lives go as they had imagined. Ida and Nora loved each other dearly when they were young, and it wasn’t until their beloved father dies that things change. Feelings of resentment, abandonment and loss cloud their judgement and they begin to live very separate and scarred lives.
I found the book slow to begin with and I was worried that I wouldn’t make it through, but I was determined to keep going and I am so glad that I did. The more I read the more entwined I became in the story, I wished for hope and acceptance for each of the characters and for a chance at happiness. That is the one thing that saddened me most is that we only got a small glimpse of true happiness from Nora, she is someone who has everything, yet she felt that she had nothing – there was a void that couldn’t be filled.
Perhaps the deepest and most cherished relationship throughout that whole book is that of Ida and Ted – I whispered, ‘Go to your Mum. So you can come back next time.’ He quietened, the tears in his eyes like morning dew. ‘Go, Teddy,’ I said. This one moment speaks a thousand words about how they felt about each other and how much they needed each other. He stayed pressed against the window as they jostled up the street and the ground under me quivered’ This isn’t the first time there is a moment like this, through the years the separation between Ted and Ida changes him in a way I never imagined, I thought their bond ineffable.
Ida is the character that I felt most akin to, her hurts go way deeper though. The book is set in a time where emotions are straight down the line and there’s no room for in-between, so Ida keeps her memories and feelings locked away in a private place inside her heart. Sometimes I felt like she would burst if she didn’t let these feelings out.
Then there is Nora, trapped in her past and desperately wanting to find her happy place, nothing brings her comfort. We see glimmers of happiness, it isn’t the type of happiness that reaches the very depths of your soul and where eyes sparkle, but it is enough to keep her going. Nora introduces us to Mental Health issues in a very different era, where measures were taken that would be a last resort now. This story reminded me how we have so many more options when it comes to Mental Health, and to fathom how people like Nora managed to get through life astounds me.
I was confused when I didn’t recognise some of the names of places in the book, particularly Ben Craeg. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the book that It became clear that while it was written about Tasmania’s North that some of the place names were fictional yet still reminiscent of truth.
This emotion filled book didn’t leave me wanting more, but that wasn’t a bad thing. I felt content with the ending, a peace that I never felt throughout the whole novel. I also felt the ending was bittersweet, while everyone felt joy at the end I felt that so much had been compromised spanning 70 years where truth was masked by getting by. While my head knows that it is the perfect way it could have ended my heart wishes it hadn’t been so hard to do so.
I congratulate Louise Allan on her first published novel and I know it will find its way to the best sellers list. As readers you will take away with you a full heart that learns to love the authors description of Tasmania and what it is like to grow up with dreams that are shattered.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read and review this book.
RUOK? As I mentioned this book touches on Mental Health issues. I want my readers to know that if you aren’t feeling ok then reach out to someone. Ring your nearest helpline or reach out to a friend.