Book review: The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

Monday, December 3, 2018 Permalink

I read an early copy of this debut novel by Megan Collins and there’s a letter from her publisher at Simon & Schuster saying how blown away they were, commenting that they finished reading the novel in record time and couldn’t wait to put it into the hands of their colleagues.

I probably wasn’t quite as enamoured but certainly enjoyed the this book which offers some great character development and a few twists you may not see coming. 

Book review: The Winter Sister by Megan CollinsThe Winter Sister
by Megan Collins
Published by Touchstone
on February 5th 2019
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1982100141, 9781982100148
Pages: 320

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died.

I really liked Sylvie. We meet her when Persephone goes missing so we get the chance to identify with the 14yr old who’s struggling with guilt over secrets she’s kept and things she’s done. Naturally these fester so when we meet her again 16 years later she hasn’t entirely emerged from her childhood unscathed.

Sylvie and Persephone’s mother Annie completely breaks down (to the point of being incapable of looking after her younger daughter) after Persephone’s death which is quite a surprise as Sylvie has (almost obviously) always been the favourite. In fact this was a common gripe of Persephone’s though Sylvie tried to deny that it was the case.

Sometimes, Persephone would say to me, it’s like you and I have two different mothers. But we didn’t. We had one mother one woman who had birthed us both. Maybe it was just the two of us who’d been different – one who saw her clearly, and one who saw her impossibly, as a garden constantly in bloom. p 191*

It’s weird then that her mother lets Sylvie disappear from her life and is consumed by the loss of one of her daughters. But not the other.

Now, forced to return home and care for her mother, Sylvie’s reminded of the past and confronted by the boy, now man, she believes killed her sister.

But… there are secrets. More and more secrets which are slowly revealed and, though I guessed at one or two, I was still horrified at the behaviour of some of those involved.

I think this would be a great bookclub book as the relationship between Ben and Persephone (and how it played out) would be ideal for discussion (or debate). This is a bit of a spoiler-alert, though we learn about it very early on in the book: Persephone often arrives home from dates with Ben covered in bruises. She commits her sister to secrecy and of course that’s just another reason Sylvie feels guilty that she didn’t reveal what was happening.

And now, Ben offers up a plausible explanation… but I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s the same kind of excuse domestically violent men use to justify their behaviour or how they rid themselves of any guilt.

Having said that, although we didn’t meet young Ben I liked older Ben.

I thought Collins did a good job with the characters, from Sylvie, her mother and aunt as well as the detectives who investigated her sister’s case. I probably would have liked a little more from the detectives, but Sylvie was a worthy lead and her ‘journey’ (sorry!), family secrets and revelations the strength of this debut novel. I look forward to more from Collins.

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins will be published on 5 February 2019 by Simon & Schuster.

I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

* Note I read an early copy which is subject to changes.


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