Title: Blood Sisters
Author: Melanie Clegg
When the beautiful Comtesse de Saint-Valèry is dragged unwillingly from her Parisian home in the dead of night, her three young daughters are left to an uncertain fate at the hands of their father in a world that is teetering on the very edge of Revolution.
Cassandre, the eldest is a beautiful and heartless society beauty, trapped in an unhappy marriage and part of the dazzling court of Versailles. Lucrèce, her twin, is married to a man she adores but he pushes her away for another woman. Meanwhile, Adélaïde, the youngest, rebels against the destiny that her position in society appears to have doomed her to.
As the horror, turmoil and excitement of the French Revolution unfolds around them, the three very different sisters struggle to survive the bloodshed, find love and discover their true selves…
Life is too short and too fleeting to be spent waiting for something to happen or to loose sight, even for a moment, of the people you love.
This book does a great job of portraying (more or less) ordinary people caught up in a major historical event and an at-best mediocre job at telling the story of everything else that happened to these people.
It follows three aristocratic sisters through major events of the French Revolution: the storming of the Bastille, the women’s March on Versaille, the imprisonment of King and Queen, their execution, Danton’s trial and finally Robespierre’s execution. At least one of them is always caught in the thick of it (Lucrèce is a lady-in-waiting to the queen and with her the day she is arrested, Adélaïde is married to a fierce Republican who is friends with Danton…) The description of these events is very vivid and drew me right into it (despite not caring about that period that much) and had me biting my nails in anticipation of what would happen next. Even when I knew what would happen, the way the sisters were hoping and praying for a happy ending made me want to join in and I almost hoped that perhaps I had misremembered my French history.
But not everything that happens is directly connected to the French Revolution. The sisters also fall in love, marry, fall out of love again, grow up, discover family secrets and change their opinions about important issues. And that’s where the format of the story is working against it. It tells of events happening between 1789 and 1794 but not as one continuing story. In the first part, we learn how the sisters experienced the storming of the Bastille, in the second the women’s March and so on. But their life didn’t stop between all these events, rather the opposite: often quite major events and revelations happened in between but we’re only told a short summary of what happened at the beginning of each chapter. By that time major decisions are already made, any emotional fallout of huge revelations has happened…a lot of character-development happens between the chapters.
As a result, I could connect with the emotions of the characters but not so much with the characters as a whole since I only ever saw snapshots of them at different stages in their life. I didn’t see them grow, I saw how they had grown.
This is also part of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season challenge:
Book themes for Advent: Read a book featuring 4 siblings.
While the story only focusses on the three sisters, they also have a brother 😉