Two Sisters by Blake Morrison
Blake Morrison’s memoirs have a habit of grabbing you by the throat and not letting go. His latest, Two Sisters, is as compulsive as And When Did You Last See Your Father? and Things My Mother Never Told Me, but its grip is just that bit tighter and desperate. It’s a book about his sister, Gill, and why she became an alcoholic. His trawl through the past leads him through childhood and family life and even to clues in the shadowy, mini genre that is ‘sibling literature’, “Why did so few books explore brother-sister relationships. In particular why did so few male authors write about their sisters? Did their sisters not matter to them…”. Blake Morrison also unearths the strange story of his half-sister, Josie, which requires slightly less detective work. Shame and guilt inevitably mean that the ‘answers’, such as they are, don’t provide much satisfaction, particularly as delving into the past is a journey that never quite gives the kind of clarity and peace hoped for. Was Gill damaged by boarding school? Was she depressed by a lack of familial love or empathy? Was it because Josie was her secret half-sister? Was it because of her failing eye sight? In Gill’s words, “If you’re searching for reasons why I turned to drink you’re barking up the wrong tree”, so what tree should Blake be barking up? And as Louise Jamison wrote in The Recovering, “…All these tales of why are true and also insufficient”. As you’ve probably guessed, Two Sisters is a sad and downbeat memoir, but Blake Morrison’s skill as a writer and memoirist is to persuade you that this is a story worth reading, “My hope is that telling her story will prompt recognition; perhaps the solace of commonality too”. A sib-lit classic.
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