The Sea Sisters – Lucy Clarke

book_the_sea_sisters_uk“Katie’s carefully structured world is shattered by the news that her headstrong younger sister, Mia, has been found dead in Bali – and the police claim it was suicide. With only the entries of Mia’s travel journal as her guide, Katie retraces the last few months of her sister’s life, and – page by page, country by country – begins to uncover the mystery surrounding her death. What she discovers changes everything. But will her search for the truth push their sisterly bond – and Katie – to breaking point?”

My first thought when I started The Sea Sisters was that it was very similar to a previous book I’ve read and reviewed on KCARAB, The Invisible Circus. Despite their similar subjects, I found this book the polar opposite of Egan’s in many ways, and I absolutely loved getting drawn in to the compelling story that Lucy Clarke has created.

Super-organised and focused Katie has a slightly love-hate relationship with her carefree sister Mia. As different in personality as they are in their looks, the two sisters, see the world in very different ways. Mia rebels against her sister’s practical nature and attitude, while Katie is constantly frustrated by Mia’s lack of commitment and responsibility and her tendency to simply do what she wants, when she wants. The sisters, who share a flat in London, are suddenly parted when Mia, seemingly on a whim, books tickets to go travelling with her best friend, Finn. During her time travelling, Mia barely gets in contact – unless she needs money.

Months later, Katie is devastated when she receives an unexpected call from the police, saying that Mia has been found dead in Bali – the suspected cause, suicide. Finding it difficult to reconcile this verdict with Mia’s nature, Katie leaves her fiancé to travel to Indonesia, following in Mia’s footsteps, to find out about the truth about her sister’s last days travelling. All she has is Mia’s travel journal, which describes the events leading up to her death, to lead her along the last path that Mia ever trod. Following the entries that narrate not only her sister’s movements but her emotions along the way, Katie tries to untangle the mystery of Mia. But she’s not expecting the secrets that she uncovers along the way, or the real motivation behind her sister’s seemingly innocent travel plans…

The Sea Sisters is a stunning debut novel; Lucy Clarke’s depiction of family relationships is masterful. The writing is emotional and evocative – the book left me thinking long after I finished the last page and put the book down, and on several occasions it even provoked tears. A big sister myself, The Sea Sisters is a touching and heartbreaking read, peppered with genuinely unexpected events, revelations and melancholic yet beautiful symbolism.

The Sea Sisters – or its US counterpart, Swimming at Night – is one of those rare books that provokes genuine emotion and prompts you as the reader to think about your own life and relationships. I expect great things from Lucy Clarke and can’t wait for her next book.

Many thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy.

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