“Love knows not distance;
It hath no continent;
It’s eyes are for the stars.”
It’s lucky that I’m a fast reader. I joined a book club, even though I have to find time for working and looking after a toddler. “The Seven Sisters” was my latest book club read. Of course, I was busy, and I ended up leaving myself with only two days to read the whole book before we were going to discuss it.
I wondered how I was going to get through 640 pages in two days but I needn’t have worried. I fell in love with the book from the first few pages. Lucinda Riley has created a story that managed to keep me captivated throughout the whole book.
The story is an epic tale about six sisters that were adopted as babies and brought to “Atlantis”, a beautiful and secluded castle straight out of a fairy tale. The tale begins as they meet as adults, back at their childhood home. Their beloved father “Pa” has died and they arrive to discover that he has already been buried at sea. However, Pa has left a legacy for each of them; a tantalizing clue to each sister’s true heritage.
From the powerful opening, we follow Maia on a journey of discovery to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. She discovers that her story and roots are somehow connected to a crumbling mansion. It is in Rio that Maia’s story really begins to come together and Lucinda Riley has cleverly weaved Maia’s modern day story together with that of her great-grandmother Izabela Bonafacio. The story of the creation of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue is also woven through this incredible novel. This takes us from Paris, where the first pieces were made, by boat to Rio and finally to the construction of the iconic statue on top of the Corcovado Mountain. The way in which Riley creates a story that sweeps across the Atlantic Ocean yet still feels personal is truly breath-taking.
Why I loved this book
I loved being given a feel for the two cities of Paris and Rio. Both are exquisitely drawn, with details that show the differences between them and give them life as additional characters in the story. Now the only difficulty I have is deciding which of them to visit first! Isabel’s time spent in the Montmartre area of Paris, populated by the bohemian artist community comes alive on the pages, with famous and familiar names taking centre stage. This contrasts beautifully with the portrait of Rio, where old and new come together alongside extreme wealth and abject poverty.
Maia and Izabela’s stories are strikingly similar, with a theme of love and loss running through them both. Novels that use dual time frames can feel uneven but that isn’t the case here. They come together seamlessly as Maia discovers more about the family she was born into. She learns more about herself, realising that she does not have to pay for one mistake for the rest of her life and that some secrets aren’t meant to be kept forever.
Lucinda Riley is incredibly talented, her storytelling is precise and thrilling. She artfully combines the modern day story with events from history and has created something special and immensely satisfying.
“The Seven Sisters” is moving and absorbing, and I was absolutely transfixed by it. If you’re usually put off by books of this length, please make an exception for this one. I can promise you that the pages fly by. Before you know it you’ll be at the end, wishing you could start on the next instalment. I certainly am!