‘Ignoring Gravity’ & the literary sisterhood

Creating the characters of Rose and Lily in Ignoring Gravity, made me ponder the subject of literary sisterhood. I had to sit and think quietly for a while before I came up with a list of novels about sisters. Beyond Austen, who of course crams every book with sisters.

Elinor and Marianne.
Elizabeth and Jane.

The one book where the main character has no sister, Emma, is about the nature of sisterhood. Emma, is the ultimate big sister, she is organising, controlling and superior, and for the lack of a sister she gets to interfere in the life of Harriet Smith. I never liked Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, who in my head is definitely a brunette. I much preferred Kate Beckinsale [below] in the 1996 television seriesliterary sisterhoodWhy sisters? Well there are two pairs of sisters in Ignoring Gravity, a generation apart. Diana and Kate Ingram. Rose and Lily Haldane. Alike as chalk and cheese, they do not fit the fluffy profile of sisters who live in each other’s pockets, who are in and out of each others’ houses all the time, who tell their exciting news first to their sister rather than their husband. So when things go wrong for Rose… how does Lily react? Read Ignoring Gravity to find out how it ends.

Back to literary sisters: there is Louisa M Alcott. We all grew up with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy in Little Women; so supportive of each other, even Jo and Amy in the end. literary sisterhoodThe five Lisbon sisters in The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides. In one year, all five sisters commit suicide. literary sisterhoodKatniss and Prim [below] from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. New additions to the sisterhood list. The older protecting the younger, but the younger showing an unexpected core of steel. Katniss sacrificing her life for her sister. Yet Prim’s quiet inner strength reminds me of Beth March.

literary sisterhood

[photo: insidemovies.ew.com]

Anna and Kate, one ill sister depending on the healthy one, in Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper. Not an easy read. This is difficult sisterhood with a capital D. Self-supportive; yes, and no.

Mary Boleyn, The Other Boleyn Girl, and her sister Anne, in Philippa Gregory’s novel; the book which really started the Tudor obsession.

Julie and Sue, and their brothers Jack and Tom, in Ian McEwan’s disturbing first novel The Cement Garden. A dark disturbing about adolescents without boundaries.

Penelope Lively’s Family Album is also about siblings, not just sisters. The six children return as adults to their childhood home, Allersmead. Sandra, Gina, Paul, Katie, Roger and Clare, we learn their darkest secrets. literary sisterhoodI grew up with two pairs of sisters – Nancy and Peggy, and Susan and Titty – in the Arthur Ransome series Swallows and Amazons. I read the entire series and lived every adventure, I definitely wanted to be an Amazon. Nancy and Peggy seemed to have all the fun. In truth, all four girls in this 1930 classic sailed, fished, swam and camped on an island in the Lake District without an adult in sight. literary sisterhood

Books about sisters which I haven’t read but want to:-
Sisters by a River, Barbara Comyns. Five sisters are born on the banks of the River Avon in the Thirties.
A Sisters’ Tale, Shelley Weiner. Mia and Gabby are two Jewish sisters who are so different, but when things get tough they are pulled back together.
The Six Sisters series, MC Beaton. Six novels, each about a different Armitage sister. I am not normally a fan of Regency fiction, but I am a Beaton fan.

If you’ve enjoyed a book about sisters which I have failed to mention here, please let me know.

To read more about Rose’s sister Lily, in Ignoring Gravity, click here
… and for more about Kate, the sister of Rose and Lily’s mother Diana, click here.
Click here to read Sarah Crown’s excellent article at The Guardian, ‘Literature’s Great Sister Acts’.
Click here to watch the movie trailer for The Virgin Suicides, starring Kirsten Dunst.
literary sisterhood

‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Part of the literary sisterhood: IGNORING GRAVITY http://wp.me/p5gEM4-Rm via @SandraDanby #amwriting


  1. I think there’s lots of scope for writers in the sisterly relationship, although have really begun to explore mine!
    Enjoyed The Virgin Suicides, another suggestion is Sister by Rosamund Lipton

    • I don’t know that one, Thx Anne. I think I’ll start (another!) list of books about sisters to read, to post about some time in the distant future. some days I don’t think I will ever get to read all the books on my to-read list. SD