Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review - The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Title: The Weird Sisters 
Author: Eleanor Brown 
Year: 2011
Page: 320
Genre: Fiction

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
A major new talent tackles the complicated terrain of sisters, the power of books, and the places we decide to call home.

There is no problem that a library card can't solve.

The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much. But the sisters soon discover that everything they've been running from-one another, their small hometown, and themselves-might offer more than they ever expected.

First Sentence:
We came home because we were failures.

My Thoughts:

  • I admit, I read this book because of the hype. When it first came out earlier this year, it had SO MUCH BUZZ in blogsphere. Book Addiction's review (see here) made me put this book on TBR (she called it " unputdownable"! Could a recommendation come higher than that?)  Not my typical genre, and I am not a Shakespeare fan either, but since I have 2 younger sisters, I have a soft spot for books about sisters.
  • I love how clean and whimsy the cover is, but I don't think it really reflected the story.... I don't know what type of cover it should have (that's why I am not a designer!), but the story didn't have the fairy-tale quality that the cover seemed to imply.
  • One thing that many people mentioned in their reviews was the unique "first person plural" ("We" instead of "I"... well I think it's called first person plural anyway since it's not 2nd person or 3rd.) I didn't really see what the big deal was. In fact, it was more like a combination of 1st person plural + 3rd person since it'd go "We...." then "Rose did ...".  I didn't find it confusing (some people didn't know which character was speaking when they used 'we") but I also didn't think it enhanced the story one way or another.
  • The three sisters, Rose, Bean (Bianca) and Cordy (Cordelia), didn't quite live up to the book title either as I didn't think they were that weird. Since I had only read one or two Shakespeare (back in high school... Midsummer Night Dream and Macbeth), I didn't quite know what the sisters' namesakes were supposed to be like. There were also quite a few Shakespearean quotes in the book as the family injected their daily conversation with Shakespeare verses. I guess Shakespeare fan would appreciate the quotes better than I did since these quotes didn't quite add to the story for me. In fact, the quotes got old fast for me... do people really speak like that in real life?
  • I did like that the characters LOVED reading, which probably appealed to all book lovers
  • "The sisters loved each other but didn't like each other" -- I guess I could identify with that somewhat. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't dislike my sisters, but sometimes I may not agree with everything they do but I still love them just because. I guess being the oldest, I could also identify with Rose who felt like it's her responsibility to make sure the family holds together. Rose's dad kept telling her that her parents and siblings are not her responsibility. Chinese think otherwise - in fact, family is number 1 priority no matter what. Now I am not 100% on that - I don't like the concept  of blindly supporting someone just because they are part of the family (I am talking about distant family here too, not just your nuclear family). Luckily I haven't been put into the position to test this out (I mean, if your brother is a serial killer, proven without a shadow of doubt, would you still support what he did unconditionally? I don't know if I could...)
  • The reason I only gave this book 2 stars was because there wasn't much to the plot (remember, I usually like reading plots with lots of twists and turns). I just don't typically do well with character-driven books. The characters weren't very likeable either - granted, the sisters were flawed but the rest of the characters just seemed too perfect so the gap was quite jarring. 
  • It's been 5 months since I read this book, and I hardly remember what happened to the characters, just that it was something predictable (if it had a big twist, I would have remembered it better). So, the story had no staying power for me. In fact, when I was about 1/3 through the book, I was going to abandon it. I kept going just to see what the hype was all about. I should have trusted my instinct. I'd been trusting my reading instinct a lot lately - probably because I'd been busy at work, so I couldn't tolerate something that only remotely interest me. When I have little time to read, I want to read something that can engage me. Something that'd make me want to stay up to read even if I am dead tired!
  • What I learned is that I am just not a Shakespeare fan. At one point back in high school, I thought Shakespeare was pretty cool - I mean, he almost invented his own language! And there must be a reason why he is so popular - so back then I really wish I was smart enough to know and understand Shakespeare. Now? Just give me the lay-person version of the story :) I remember loving the scenery in the movie Romeo & Juliet (the Leonardo DiCaprio & Claire Danes version - love the songs by the way!) but I wish they spoke with plain English instead because it seemed too pretentious not to.
  • Okay, Shakespeare fan, don't hate me :) English is hard enough for me to master, let alone Shakespearean :) If I am really missing the mark about this book, please enlighten me. I want to learn why people love this book so much, so that I can grow to be a better reader!

We are at our most miserable when we're doing it to ourselves. (p234)

Overall Rating:

2 Stars. Not for me.

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.


  1. You're not alone! It wasn't for me either - I didn't even finish it.

  2. I finished it, but wasn't so enamored of it either!

  3. I have been wanting to read this since I read a NYT review early in the year. I am a Shakespeare fan and have read a big chunk of his oeuvre. I think the beauty of the modern adaptations of Shakespeare's work (particularly the Baz R&J) is how it makes the language sound so fluid and natural.

    One day I'll get around to this one.


  4. This is one I was intrigued with from all the hype and saw some of my favourite bloggers loving it and others like you not reading it yet so I kept on waiting and started to say I don't think it is for me.

    You just sealed the deal, thank you.

  5. I am one of those that liked this book. I think what worked for me was the way the author worked Shakespeare's quotes into the story. I'm no Shakespeare fan either, but I loved how the bard has already said something about a topic. But I didn't love the book, and when I think of this book now, I realize that it didn't really have any staying power.

  6. @Cat - I should've abandoned it...

    @rhapsodyinbooks - glad to hear I am not the only one! It's one of those books that made me questioned my reading for a bit... how come everyone LOVED this except me... what's wrong with me...

    @quirky girls/jehara - I think if you're a Shakespeare fan, you'd enjoy it!

    @Marce - Isn't it interesting how we can be so different in our reviews? I remember at one of my book club discussions, I said the book is too character driven as not much happened, then someone else said it was too plot-driven without enough character development!

    @Aths - I do like the idea of quote Shakespeare as it shows the family loves books and they use the books to communicate with each other. But since I have problem translating the quotes (I wasn't in the mood to fully studying the quotes to understand them... I treated the quotes as though they were a foreign language lol), I pretty much just skim over the quotes :)

  7. This onee's on my wishlist and now I've been warned :)
    I do like Shakespeare and have read most of his work, but not since my mid 20's! I think part of his appeal is that his stories are universal and modern. I admit that the language is hard to adjust to at first.

  8. @stacybuckeye - it's true that the theme his stories are universal. I think you'd probably like it better than I do! :)