Book Review: The Good Sister by Chelsea Bolan

The novel, The Good Sister, was given to my daughters when the artist who designed the cover heard what good sisters they were to one another. My girls do not have the time at the moment to immerse themselves in a story as they are busy with the work senior high entails so I decided to pick it up as I liked the cover art and the title intrigued me.

The story is told mostly from the viewpoint of Lucy, though we often read about the experiences of the other characters in the story. For reasons that are eventually revealed during the story, Lucy’s sister is no longer at home. Lucy eventually goes out to find her sister, Gabriela, in Mexico City’s most dangerous neighbourhoods. As the story progresses, the part played in Gabi’s fate by her father, brothers, and brother-in-law is revealed.

I was interested to learn the fate of Gabriela, and to see how her sister fared while searching for her sibling. I began the story with eagerness and yet found it difficult to ignore that the sprinkling of Spanish words throughout the text impeded the flow of the story for me. I understand that the author wanted the reader to experience an authentic Mexican environment, but the unknown words did hamper my enjoyment of the novel. I continued reading as I was curious to find out what happened to Gabriella – an event that is hinted at throughout the novel and eventually stated in Gabriella’s voice at the end of the novel.

I enjoyed this novel for the description of the relationship between two sisters and how a life-changing event can eventually bring them closer to one another. I noticed as well that throughout the novel that hints are made about the role that the woman is expected to play in a relationship between a man and a woman, and the role of the woman in a marriage. No commentary is made on this theme, however, and instead is described as what can be seen to exist in the relationship between a man and a woman in the Mexican culture.

Since the departure of her sister, Lucy comes to some realisations about herself and the people around her. Early on in the novel, the start of her growth is seen when she picks up the camera for the first time:

“I held the camera to my eye. I adjusted the lens, putting them all in focus, then out of focus again, Seeing Papa in a smear, his features blotted. And Isabel blending into him in a blur of colour. I kept it out of focus like that for a while. When I turned the lens, suddenly everything was clear, precise. The glasses glistening above the bar like a chandelier. The lines in Papa’s face, Paul’s eyes taking on a tinge of sadness, Isabel with a secret in her smile. There was something in all of them I hadn’t seen before.” (p 57-58, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, 2016)

Lucy is therefore a character that grows and develops during the story – she is more mature at the end of the story than she was at the beginning.

Even though I found this novel slow to get into, and had difficulty with the smattering of Spanish, I did find it a pleasant read once I had read a 100 pages into the story.

I gave the novel 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Do words and phrases in a language you do not know hamper your enjoyment of a novel?

(This novel was the 13th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Good Sister by Chelsea Bolan

  1. I guess for authenticity, some Spanish is important but if you don’t understand the language, that is a serious problem. Perhaps the native language could just be implied. In modern movies, the actors playing “overseas” characters don’t necessarily speak the actual language in the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There were too many Spanish words and phrases which did hamper my enjoyment of the novel. Unfortunately a writer cannot write in an accent like an actor can do in film 😊


  2. You always make me want to read the books you review 🙂

    Swedish is my native language. In 2010 my New Year’s resolution was to learn English, in a way so that I could have fluid conversations with people while traveling, and also be able to retrieve information in English from the internet. I did take English classes in school, but that is completely different from the American English, spoken in every day life. I read lots of books, and started a blog in English (the grammar was HORRIBLE, so I erased it a long time ago.) It was very difficult to read English books in the beginning. I struggled a lot, and had to look up every other word in a dictionary. It certainly affected the story. 90% of the books I read now are in English, and it have helped me a lot. Every now and then there’s a word that I don’t understand, but not very often. I still struggle with the grammar while writing, but reading certainly helps a lot with that as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is good – that means that I am doing a good job with my reviews 😄
      I would have never guessed that English was your second language. You have learned the language really well.

      Liked by 1 person

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