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Book Review: "It would be wrong to steal my sister's boyfriend (wouldn't it?)" - Sophie Ranald

Joseph Mack

jmack (at) wm7d (dot) net

Oct 2013

Table of Contents

1. Book details
2. Review

1. Book details

It would be wrong to steal my sister's boyfriend (wouldn't it?)
Sophie Ranald
Print on Demand, 2013
ISBN 13: 978-1491298015 (pbk)

The book is printed on demand. From the printing date on the back inside, I found I'd finished the book 10days after it was printed. I read the book in two sittings in less than 24hrs. I wanted to find out more about the protagonist; she seemed very real.

2. Review

I found this book in an article about chicklit on The Vagenda. Although I haven't read any chicklit, I think of it as being for and about teenage girls, with backstabbing and nastiness. The article assured me this book wasn't like this and that the author had tried to make the people real, with real problems. She succeeded.

This is about the lives of a pair of sisters, apparently in their late 20's, as seen through the eyes of the older, more level headed, less beautiful sister. You read about her love life, friends and work and the lives of her sister and friends. They lead intense lives (OK so this is a book, everything has to be exaggerated, or you wouldn't read it).

The protagonist has good friends and a meaningful life doing relatively low paid work of direct benefit to the world. The sister lives in a flighty world of money and beautiful people, a world where the problems the protagonist faces are not acknowledged. Looking at the sister's world, the protagonist feels she's missing out on something, but she resists because she can't stand the people there. The protagonist's resistance is overwhelmed by the appearance of the sister's newest boyfriend, who is gorgeous, rich and as you get to know him, educated, sensitive and cultured. The distinquishing feature of this book is the emotional depth and honesty of the protagonist as she looks at what she and others are doing and why. That doesn't mean she gets everything right, but you know why she's doing it and you sympathise; sometimes her choices are limited. However she does her best each time and her best is good. In fact, all the main characters are doing their best; there's not a real meany anywhere here. You wish everyone could live their lives this way. It's nice to read a book that doesn't rely on bad people to make it work.

I avoid fiction; often on finishing a piece of fiction, I see that the author has invoked a deus ex machina and I feel like I've been had. Much of the time, I cannot accept the author's premise. This book is not like that; it has a credible story and the characters, at least the ones fleshed out in any depth, are similarly credible. You understand why her not-so-level-headed sister does what she does; in the sister's perceived world, she's acting optimally.

The plot was at my limit for complexity (how do authors think of all this stuff?). The story's multiple strands collapse in an avalanche at the very end, with good, but somewhat unexpected outcomes for all. The happily-ever-after ending seems a little unrealistic. I would rather a few people wound up in ambiguous states, or left to lie in the beds they'd made, with the reader contemplating their fates. But I didn't really mind; the ending wasn't required to make the book work. The author had already given me a full picture of the protagonist and her life and that was enough.

I live in the US, but I notice that much that I read by women about women is coming from England e.g. Sophie Ranald (this author), Caitlin Moran, The Vagenda, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, Brooke Magnanti.

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