Thursday, 23 November 2017

Book Review: My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

Title: My Sister’s Bones

Author: Nuala Ellwood

Pages: 400

Publication: 7th September 2017

TW: alcoholism, sexual assault, PTSD

1 line synopsis: Kate hears screams, but is it her PTSD or is someone actually in danger?


I really wanted this to be a book I’d enjoy: the author is from York, my previous home, it’s a crime/thriller, so right up my alley, and it talks about Syria, which makes it feel recent and timely. Writing about Syria isn’t something that I’ve seen a lot of in contemporary fiction. However, this book was unfortunately a DNF for me.

Here’s the first problem: there are too many threads. There’s not only the Syria storyline, but also Kate’s complicated relationship with her alcoholic sister, her parents’ relationship and its effects, Kate’s previous relationship with a co-worker, and then on top of all of this the hearing screams and seeing a figure in the garden. It’s a complex story, which would be fine if there had been a bit more refinement in pulling it off; instead, it felt like a confusing mess.

Added to this, the reader flits between the present, where Kate is being detained by the police and interviewed by a mental health professional, the recent past, where Kate first arrives in Herne Bay, and the less recent past, where Kate is in Syria and we discover what has affected her so greatly. The lack of any bringing together of any of the threads early on in the book combined with the change in time meant I became more and more frustrated.

After I’d decided to put the book down, I still needed the closure and decided to flick through the rest of the book to see what happened. Most of what happened struck me as completely ridiculous but also obvious; I was glad to have not spent the time reading on once I knew where it was heading. I also think the title, My Sister’s Bones, is misleading and used purely to confuse readers more to make the twists and turns in the book seem better. Also the inclusion of the comparison to Girl on the Train does lead me to wonder if that's actually effective anymore - are more people not actively trying to avoid books with these big comparisons now?

Essentially, my decision to DNF came down to the fact that I was reading to finish, not reading to enjoy. One thing I will say is that the audiobook was a great narration, and I will be searching for more things narrated by Imogen Church in the future. It just wasn’t a book for me, which is a shame, but it happens.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear what you think - message me on Twitter or comment in the box down below!