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shewhomust

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Four sisters [Feb. 24th, 2015|08:58 pm]
shewhomust
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I am currently reading - and enjoying - Kate Atkinson's Case Histories. I don't often read a book with as little advance information as this: I've read at least one book by Kate Atkinson before, but not recently, and not one of her detective stories, of which this is the first. I remember it being favourably reviewed when it was first published, but anything I knew about the story is long gone.

It opens in 1970, in a summer heatwave, with four children, four sisters, running wild: their father is an academic who absents himself from domestic matters, their mother is simply overwhelmed. So the girls are left to their own devices. I thought - of course I did - of Diana Wynne Jones's Time of the Ghost.

I knew this book was going to go off in a different direction - after all, the detective would be turning up sooner or later - but there was something about the shape of the relationship between four sisters that stayed with me as I was falling asleep. There are four sisters in Anne Fine's sour comedy for adults, Telling Liddy, too. There's quite a lot of autobiography in Time of the Ghost (Diana Wynne Jones was one of four sisters, and put a lot of their childhood into the book), rather less in Telling Liddy though Anne Fine is one of five sisters. I've heard her say that if she'd put five sisters into the book, it would have stretched credulity, though I wondered whether there was simply something pleasing about the shape made by those four sisters.

I fell asleep thinking about this, and whether there were any other books about four sisters - not brothers and sisters, not the tribes of children produced by Jo Maynard to attend the Chalet School, just four sisters. And woke up thinking "Of course! Little Women!"

My reading process, let me show it to you.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: vschanoes
2015-02-24 11:07 pm (UTC)
Well, there are five sisters in All-of-a-Kind family and in Pride and Prejudice, but let me think if I can come up with another foursome.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-02-25 09:49 am (UTC)
I don't know All-of-a-Kind, but do I infer that the title is making the point: all these girls, it's a bit odd?

As in its way is Pride and Prejudice, of course. I did consider the Bennet sisters: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary and Kitty'n'Lydia makes four (or just overlook Mary, as also happens). But it certainly doesn't have the same feel as my list...

As why should it, this is just pattern-making?
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[User Picture]From: vschanoes
2015-02-25 08:23 pm (UTC)
It's a series of kids' books about a family of five Jewish sisters growing up on the Lower East Side of NYC around the turn of the 20th century. The gentile librarian comments on their family make-up in the first book, but nobody else does. Of course, it seems particularly not odd to me, since my great-grandmother was one of five Jewish sisters (no brothers) growing up on the Lower East Side of NYC around the turn of the 20th century...

(apologies for the anonymous version of this comment--I forgot I wasn't logged in)
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-02-26 02:15 pm (UTC)
Heh. It happens.

And yes, the all-of-a-kind families happen, too. In larger numbers back when larger families were more common, but still does. Is it one of those things, like two people in a group having the same given name, that fiction avoids, but is actually not at all unusual?
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[User Picture]From: la_marquise_de_
2015-02-25 04:57 pm (UTC)
There's also The Makioka Sisters, by Tanizaki Junichiro, which is one of my all time favourites.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-02-26 02:15 pm (UTC)
Another one I've never come across. What a rich vein...
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[User Picture]From: la_marquise_de_
2015-02-26 04:52 pm (UTC)
I recommend it highly. Four sisters in 1920s Japan.
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[User Picture]From: klwilliams
2015-02-25 09:50 pm (UTC)
Kate Elliott's upcoming YA has four sisters, and starts with an homage to Little Women.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-02-26 02:16 pm (UTC)
Interesting - both that she should choose to write that, and that she should tie it to that precedent!
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