Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Eleanor Brown”

Mrs Smith Reads The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, #CBR4, Review #23

Apparently I am not alone, click the image for another, more comprehensive review of why The Weird Sisters was so bad.

Looking at the reviews of The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, I feel a little out of sync. It seems like everyone who read it, loves it and I most definitely did not love it. I did not like the three sisters, I didn’t like their parents and I most definitely did not like the choral voice of the narrator, since I was constantly trying to figure out which “sister” was doing the narrating when speaking about “our” experience.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

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Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #08: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown is an “After That Summer, Nothing Would Ever Be the Same Again” kind of book, but unlike a lot of books (and films) with the Unforgettable Life-Changing Summer trope, this one is about adult rites of passage rather than teenage ones. Dealing with sibling relationships, family dynamics, and ways of avoiding and seeking one’s destiny – or “growing up” – if you will, Weird Sisters is funny, warm and clever.

Three sisters, Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia, have been brought up on Shakespeare and other classic authors in a small college town; their father is a professor and their schooling was unconventional, which they variously resent and are grateful for. All three sisters return home because their mother has cancer but also for reasons of their own – their experiences in the wide world have been difficult and they need space to lick their wounds and decide what to do with the rest of their lives – even if these are hard to picture when their mother is suffering from chemotherapy side-effects. The sisters naturally have distinct personalities – Rose is responsible, Bianca or Bean is lost city girl, Cordy is a free spirit at a loose end. Growing apart has left them slightly broken; growing together might smother them – what are they to do?

Weird Sisters has echoes of Alice Hoffman’s work in its lovingly evoked details of the quotidian, of the big things that change lives and the small things that make them worth living. There is genuine poignancy in some of the scenes, and while others are lit with humour and charm. Part of it is narrated in the second person plural, reinforcing the sense of sisterhood, but I can see how some might find it a bit annoying:

But going to Broadway would have required a tenacity Cordy just did not possess. We were too easy on her, yes, and when she forgot to do her chores and skipped off to the pool, or pulled us away from our own work to build a fort in the dining room, we forgave her those trespasses, and did her chores for her. We helped her with her home-work, we baby-sat for her, we let her sit in the library at Coop and read for hours at a time, and when it finally came down to it, Cordy was sorely unprepared for the fact that her smile and her ability to get an entire room of Shakespeare scholars to do the Macarena (true story) would not necessarily guarantee her perennial success. 

Still, Rose would tell you Cordy always got the best Christmas presents.

Bean would tell you Cordy never lost a board game in her life, even when she did.

Cordy would tell you all these things are true. (101)

It’s the sort of book that relishes other books; the sisters are always unselfconsciously reading (and it would be great if we were told what they were reading) and the quotes from Shakespeare that at first seem clever throwaways eventually sometimes mean more. It’s the sort of book to be read lying on the grass while sipping iced tea, and it’s the sort of book that is enjoyable but not perfect, that made me intrigued to see how the author evolves.

Brown, Eleanor. The Weird Sisters. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 2011.

ElCicco#CBR4Review#11: The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown

This is a contemporary story of the Andreas Sisters, Rose (Rosalind), Bean (Bianca) and Cordy (Cordelia) who return home to bucolic Barnwell, Ohio, when they learn that their mother has cancer. Their father, Professor Jim Andreas of Barnwell College, is a famous Shakespeare authority, and he and his girls quote the Bard liberally. Frankly, Shakespeare-quoting characters don’t really interest me much and too much recitation of Shakespeare’s lines can become tedious, but in this story, Eleanor Brown hits the right note. Shakespeare’s words are a thread throughout the story, but it is the lives of the sisters that provide the meat, and they are talented, funny, annoying and tormented each in turn.

Rose, as eldest, fits the bill as first born — an over-achiever who is uber-responsible and seems to think it’s her job to take care of the family. The problem is that Rose, now a college math professor engaged to another professor, is almost paralyzed by fear of branching out, taking risks and trying new things. Rose must decide between staying with the familiar or going with her fiance to London where he has been offered a research position.

Bianca on the other hand, has dreamed since youth of leaving their boring college town for New York. Her goal in life has been to stand out, even if that means garnering negative attention for herself. Bean lives her dream life in New York for a while, wearing fine clothes, having drinks with investment bankers and so on, but she accomplishes this by embezzling from her employer. The note from her father about her mother’s illness comes at just the right time for Bean to get out of town and try to figure out how to fix the mess she has created.

Cordy was the first sister to leave Barnwell, having left before finishing her degree and hitting the road to follow hippie bands, live in flophouses, work sporadically, and ultimately, become pregnant, which she discovers shortly before getting word of her mother’s illness. Cordy struggles with the desire to live a free life on the road and the desire to keep her baby and be a good mother, which she understands requires a more stable lifestyle. While her reputation in the family is as the very loved but irresponsible baby, Cordy demonstrates a kindness and sensibility that proves this wrong.

What I like: the depiction of cancer and the way it ravages the body; the humor in the relationship among the sisters and with their parents; the presentation of internal struggles for each sister. While their faults are obvious, each is quite likable. Bean’s internal conflict is especially interesting as it involves financial and moral transgressions.  Each has to be brave enough to challenge herself and leave the comfort zone in the end. And for the most part, all’s well that ends well in The Weird Sisters. Pure entertainment with Shakespeare sprinkles on top.

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