The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman
Elv, Claire and Meg Story are sisters. They’re extremely close, inventing a language all of their own – Arnish – even their mother is excluded from their fantasy world, and the younger two are always rapt with Elv’s storytelling about the fairy land of Arnelle. Theirs is a world full of women, their parents having divorced some time ago, and they also revered their French grandmother Natalia, who lives in Paris which has a strong attraction for the girls.
Then one day, Elv rescues Claire from a nasty encounter with a man and that event, despite remaining a secret, will change everything. When she reaches sixteen, Elv begins to go off the rails, taking drugs, partying and other reckless behaviour …
She found the tattoo shop. Patrons were supposed to be eighteen, but Elv looked old enough, as if she knew what she wanted, so no one asked for ID. She had two black stars tattooed above each shoulder, in the place where her wings would be. She found the pain soothing in a strange way, a gateway out of her body, into Arnelle. There was an army gathering there: the Queen had posted them at the doorway. Anyone residing in the human world was suspect, including Elv. Prove yourself, one of the guards said to her. She was wearing a black dress. Black ballet shoes. She could smell jasmine. The tattoo artist was a bit leery now that her shirt was off. He said, ‘This might hurt.’ As if she cared about that. He covered the tattoos with white bandages. ‘There might be some blood seeping through,’ he told her. As if that mattered.
Soon her behaviour is so bad, her parents come together again momentarily to take her to reform school where she meets and falls totally in love with Lorry, the junkie and petty criminal brother of another inmate. Poor damaged Elv is intent on exploring the dark side of life as she grows into a woman, but although she totally dominates the book, the other sisters and their mother will have their brush with fate too. You can’t help but hope for some kind of happy ending.
Hoffman is brilliant at weaving a hint of the supernatural into a drama and turning it into something special. I found The Story Sisters a much darker novel than the last one of hers that I read, The Ice Queen, which I thought was fabulous and reviewed here. Both are about love, but The Story Sisters with its exploration of sisterhood, entwined with the secrets and twists of fate was also an affecting read. (8/10)
This post was republished into its original place in my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive
Source: Review copy – thank you
Alice Hoffman, The Story Sisters (William Collins, 2010) paperback, 336 pages.