My Sister the Serial Killer. What a way to end the week!

Weekly catch up…

So the inevitable happened. The new school term started, life got crazy and I didn’t manage to blog this week.

This whole blogging business is new to me and I am learning on the job. So first lesson learnt; either have a few blogs in hand or resign yourself to one post a week. Watch this space!

However despite my woeful blog presence I have been meeting some lovely booky people through the world of blogging. I have found there are more fantastic book blogs out there than I thought possible, and amazingly, the number of those lovely people interacting with and following BookBound has steadily grown. So thank you one and all.

What I have read this week…

Whilst keeping up the blog might have eluded me I have still manage to find time to read. I have managed to tuck away three books from my Women’s Prize TBR pile. The Bank Holiday weekend enabled me read My Sister the Serial Killer, (review below), Lost Children Archive – Valeria Luisella and Bottled Goods – Sophie van Llewyn.

Through the working week I was sustained by the fantastic Signs for Lost Children -Sarah Moss. Moss is a relatively new find for me but I am growing in admiration for her with each book I read. She deserves, and will get, a blog post of her own very soon. In the meantime I am pinning my colours to her mast and hoping that she will be on the Women’s Prize Short List, to be announced on Monday , 29th April, for her excellent novella Ghost Wall.

What I am currently reading …

So to be honest I have gone slightly off piste and started A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara. These is one of the books that has been waiting patiently on my Kindle for an age. It is also a book which gets a lot of attention, and which seems to divide people quite dramatically. Always in the market for a controversial read! My Kindle informs me I am only 4% in; too early for judgement yet but I am certainly intrigued. Given it’s estimated reading length of over 18 hours, next week’s blog catch up might be Ground Hog day! I will keep you posted.

I also have half an eye on Jeanette Winerson’s The Daylight Gate. Inspired by my reading of The Familiars, this is her take on the story of the Pendle Witch trials. Never yet been let down by Winterson’s work, so this will be my balm if I end up in the ‘hate camp’ for A Little Life!

And to the main event! A review of ‘My Sister the Serial Killer – Oyinka Braithwaite.’

I seem to have read a few debut novels this year, but nothing has yet been quite so darkly delightful as My Sister the Serial Killer. For a first novel is is extraordinary. Quite simply, breathtaking. If appreciate a black comedy, then I challenge you to find something quite so accomplished this year. And if you can, sling it my way because I definitely want to read it!

Set in present day Lagos, the novel begins with Korede in a bathroom, meticulously clearing away the evidence of her sister’s third kill, yet another boyfriend despatched in unclear circumstances.

Korede; the older sister. Steady, a reliable nurse, she is the ‘voodoo doll’ to her sister’s ‘bratz’. Ayoola, the younger, outwardly charming, creative and gregarious .

And a beautiful narcissist with an appetite for murder.

Braithwaite’s depiction of the two sisters, in indeed all her characters, is flawless. Here is a master class in the use of the written word. She is one of those rare authors who uses each word with precision and meaning. No room here for lengthy, evocative descriptions of thoughts and motivation. Tell us instead of a young woman who carries a knife ‘the way other women carry tampons’, who dances to Whitney Houston’ ‘the musical equivalent of M and M’s’, just days after she ‘ gave a man to the sea’.

Or show us Yinka, the hospital receptionist, Queen of the back handed compliment and sarcasm. Let her suggest, through a cutting one liner, how straight and upstanding Korede aspires to be.

And show us the daily jeopardy of the sister’s relationship by introducing Tade. Tade, the handsome young doctor who Korede worships from afar, who is destined to become entangled with Ayoola. It is through fear for his safety that Korede is seen in a struggle between loyalty and morality. A struggle that is enhanced and reflected throughout the book.

Add in a a coma patient as a Korede’s confidant and the tension is almost unbearable.

Braithwaite has the confidence of a writer who lets the characters actions speaks for themselves. Not one character is wasted, not one word is excessive. Everything links and builds to a seamless portrait of a damaged people heading towards disaster.

Even Ayoola method of killing is telling and unequivocal. Her victims are stabbed, always stabbed.

From it’s first appearance knife is an important symbol, almost it’s own character. Loaded with symbolism, slowly revealed. In true serial killer style, Ayoola will not be parted from her weapon of choice, even though it holds the power to damn her. The blade she always carries is a relic of her past, wielded and worshipped by her abusive father. Dead ten years, his presence in the book is undeniable, threatening and also mysterious. Clues to the sister’s current state are found within his life and his death. Half truths and almost revelations build to make the reader, question their preconceptions, and reassess what they think they know.

Within these pages there is much to be said for the power of both women and men. How corrupting power is, to what lengths will we go to hold on to power and what happens when the power we craves begins to destroy us.

Power is not only in the hands of the living. There are legacies left behind which shape and guide, be they the poetry of the third victim Femi, or the charade of a memorial service for a long dead and much feared father. Braithwaite has clear messages surrounding the ability of the past and our daily interactions to mould our outlook on life. Who is the more powerful, men or women? Well Braithwaite is going to let you decide.

It is hard to hide my admiration for this book, so why even try. I devoured it in one day, scowling and maybe even growling at any teenager who dare to suggest that may they might want to eat!

I will stick my neck out, break my own self imposed rule and predict that this one will make the Women’s prize Short List on Monday. If it doesn’t I will be wanting to know why!

Grab yourselves a copy and enjoy.

Book mentioned in this blog…

  • My Sister the Serial Killer – Oyinka Braithwaite
  • A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
  • Lost Children Archive – Valeria Luisella
  • Signs for Lost Children – Sarah Moss
  • Bottled Goods – Sophie van Llewyn
  • The Daylight Gate – Jeanette Winterson

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