‘Once upon a time there were three sisters……and a brother who lived in a tree’
So starts ‘Me and My Sisters’ – the excellent new novel by international bestselling author Sinead Moriarty. Fans of Sinead’s writing will know that they can expect honesty, humour and great story-telling and this latest offering, Moriarty’s seventh, certainly does not disappoint.
From the opening chapters we are introduced to Julie, Sophie and Louise – the three sisters through whom the story is told. Their lives couldn’t be more different – Julie is a frazzled stay-at-home-mum-of-four, battling with her weight, a husband whose salary keeps getting cut and her self-esteem. Sophie is a glamorous, yummy mummy to her little Princess, Jess – her husband earns an absolute fortune and she leads a privileged life of shopping, beauty treatments and coffee with the girls. Louise is a successful senior partner in a Dublin law firm and can think of nothing worse than having a child to mess up your business suits and career potential.
But, of course, we know that these women’s lives are going to have to change and with the background of the recession looming over all of them, a series of events unfolds which leads them all to re-evaluate who they are and what they want from life.
When Julie suspects her husband of having an affair her world is completely turned upside down. Louise reveals that she is pregnant and despite her intentions to raise her daughter from behind her glossy, corporate desk, she soon realises that motherhood isn’t quite as easy to control as a business takeover. For Sophie, a life of fancy cars, designer clothes and diamonds comes crashing down around her when Jack loses everything they own on a bad investment. Through their individual troubles, the sister’s pull together and come out on the other side much more appreciative for what they have.
With the additional, excellent ‘cameo’ characters of Julie’s hilarious neighbour Marian (who deserves a novel all of her own!) and the tree-hugging escapades of brother Gavin and his Angelina Jolie lookalike girlfriend, not to mention corporate rat Dominic, there is plenty to keep the reader hooked and engaged in these three women’s complex, yet very believable lives.
With pacy writing, plenty of humour, well-observed characters, action that moves between Dublin and London and great insights into corporate law and designer clothing, Sinead Moriarty has produced a great read – and one which many, many women will relate to.
Enjoy this book and then pass it onto your sisters, mum and friends – I’m sure everyone will recognise a little bit of themselves, or their family, somewhere among Moriarty’s well-written pages.
I spoke to Sinead about her latest book and her writing life.
Where did you get the idea for ‘Me and My Sisters’?
I’ve always been fascinated by identity – what defines people, how they figure out who they are and how much you change as each decade comes to a close. I suppose turning forty, myself, made me more reflective and I was interested in exploring the issues of identity. For example, Julie in the book feels she has lost her identity since having children – along with her waistline! She feels invisible and has no idea who she is anymore. Or, like Sophie in the book, having your identity defined by what you drive and the size of your house and the carat of your diamonds. I wanted to look at what happens to someone when all that is taken away. Who are they? And then the other type of identity I explore is Louise’s, whose entire self-esteem is wrapped up in her very successful career. What happens when that career is threatened by an unwanted pregnancy? Can you really be a single parent and still break the glass ceiling? These are the key themes in the novel, with lots of fun and comedy mixed in along the way.
Do you base your characters on people you know, or are they figments of your imagination?
They are figments of my imagination, but I’m sure that some characteristics of people I know slip in. There is also part of me in all my characters – male and female.
As a mum of three, I’m sure you can relate to all the three sisters in the novel – do you find that as a working mum, you have to be especially well organised when it comes to your writing?
Definitely! I’ve always been very organised so I suppose it has just been taken to another level! I don’t find it difficult to be disciplined about my writing because I love it so much. And as a mother of three small children, it’s a privilege to be able to switch off for hours every day and immerse myself completely in my creative world.
Who is your favourite character in the novel and why?
Interestingly, Julie started out as my favourite and Sophie as my least favourite. But by the end I really liked Sophie, I understood why she acted the way she did and how deeply she fought to hide her insecurities. The most fun character to write was Marian, Julie’s outspoken, ballsy, slightly unhinged neighbour. I love Marian; she says things I wish I had the courage to say!
If you could choose any celebrities to play the three sisters in a movie version of the book, who would you choose?
That’s a difficult question. Probably Cate Blanchett for Louise, the career driven sister, maybe Sandra Bullock for Julie, the sister with four small sons and Gwyneth Paltrow for the glamorous Sophie.
What is your favourite ‘writing/author’ moment to date?
Finishing each novel. The sense of achievement is indescribable. It feels as if you’ve climbed the highest mountain.
Which author do you most admire?
I admire every single author out there – published and unpublished. To have the courage and discipline to sit down a write a novel – instead of talking about it – is a huge achievement.
What are you working on next – any details or juicy insights to the next novel?!
My next novel is about abduction. It’s about the moral dilemma of seeing a neglected child and deciding whether to leave it in danger or kidnap it to save its life. It’s about judging someone on one momentary view of their lives, it’s about making mistakes, it’s about heart-wrenching loss and unconditional love, it’s about motherhood, marriage, dysfunctional families and relationships and it’s about forgiveness.
What three words would you use to describe your writing style?
Funny, poignant, pacy.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished a wonderful book that I came across by accident. It’s called ‘Mornings in Jenin’. It’s a novel told from the view of a Palestinian refugee and is incredibly powerful.
Sinead Moriarty was born and raised in Dublin where she grew up surrounded by books. While working as a journalist in London in her thirties she began to write ‘The Baby Trail’ which went on to be an international bestseller.
‘Me and My Sisters’, Sinead’s seventh novel, is published by Penguin Ireland. For more information about Sinead, her books and her writing, check out her lovely website at www.sineadmoriarty.com or connect with her on Facebook.
Thank you to Patricia McVeigh at Penguin Ireland for the review copy of ‘Me and My Sisters’ and to Sinead for her time in answering my questions.