Isabel Ashdown returns to the Isle of Wight* for the setting of her latest novel, Little Sister, and rather appropriately for this dark tale of sibling rivalry and lost children she’s gone over to slightly wilder West Wight. (I lived on this side of the island for nine years before leaving to go to university, so I was excited to read something set there, and see how she’d use some of its locations.)
After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home. Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.
Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before?
Little Sister starts as it means to go on with an intriguing but incredibly disconcerting prologue which sets the tone for the entire book. Told from the viewpoint of three of the characters, Little Sister is a tense, almost claustrophobic novel thanks to its relatively small cast of characters and with the majority of the action taking place inside Emily’s home. It’s almost a relief when Jess goes for a walk or Emily does a flit, even when the police come round with an update. You get a real sense of what it is like to be in that home with all the anxiety of not knowing where baby Daisy is or if she’ll be found safe and well, as the strained family dynamic starts to rupture and outside the press pack lines the drive in wait for a clickbait headline or a compromising photo opportunity. A nightmare situation Isabel Ashdown makes vivid.
Little Sister is aptly named for while one little sister is missing on and off-the-page, another takes a central role in the story: alongside the search for absent Daisy, Isabel Ashdown takes us back into the history between the two grown-up sisters, Jess and Emily. Theirs is a fascinating dynamic, almost suffocating in its intensity. One is painted as shy, good and the peacemaker, the other as more extrovert, if calculating and manipulative with it. Isabel Ashdown helps you to get to know one of the sisters better by having her tell her story in first person while the other seems more distant and harder to read by having her side told in third person. Nothing is ever quite what it seems though and neither sister appears to be a reliable narrator; one because she’s only recently come back into the other’s life, and the other because she’s distraught, emotional, suspicious and heavily medicated. Read more
This is the online home of writer Kathryn Eastman.
It’s full of book reviews, chocolate tasting, adventures with squirrels, a lot of tea drinking, and a snoring pussy cat, among other things.
Oh, and very occasionally, some writing gets done.