Riley, Lucinda. The Sun Sister. 2019. New York: Atria Books, 2020.
ISBN-13: 978-1982110642 | $28.00 USD | 656 pages | Historical Fiction
“Seven Sisters books just keep getting better and better” (Tracy Rees, author of Amy Snow) with this epic novel that vividly transports you from the dazzling streets of modern-day New York City to the breathtaking plains of 1940s colonial Kenya.
Electra d’Aplièse is a woman who seems to have it all: as a top model, she has beauty, fame, and wealth. But beneath the glittery veneer, she’s cracking under the pressure of it all. The last straw comes when she finds out her father has died and she turns to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain. As friends and colleagues fear for her health, Electra receives a shocking letter from a complete stranger who claims to be her grandmother.
In 1939, Cecily Huntley-Morgan arrives fresh from New York to Lake Naivasha in Kenya for the exciting chance to stay with her godmother, the famous socialite Kiki Preston. But after a sheltered upbringing, she’s completely astounded by the hedonistic antics of the other ex-pats in the infamous Happy Valley set. Cecily soon grows to love her stunning but complicated new home, and she even accepts a proposal of marriage from Bill Forsythe, an enigmatic older cattle farmer. After a shocking discovery and with war looming, Cecily feels isolated and alone. Until she meets a young woman in the woods and makes her a promise that will change the course of her life forever.
Featuring Lucinda Riley’s “engaging and mesmerizing” (Library Journal, starred review) storytelling and filled with unforgettable and moving characters, The Sun Sister explores how love can cross seemingly impossible boundaries.
In the series
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Lucinda Riley does it again…The Sun Sister is another epic installment for her Seven Sisters series, and with only one more to go, I’m torn between wanting it now so all can be revealed (the cliffhanger at the end!) and already feeling prematurely sad to see it end.
I never really liked Electra, but I never doubted Riley could pull her story together in a satisfying way. And the revelation of her issues stunned me and made me feel for her, even when she was being difficult, because in some ways, she reminds me of someone I know and love dearly, who thankfully is also doing better.
I do think her arc does suffer a bit from Riley’s lack of firsthand experience with drug use and addiction, as the descriptions of Electra using tend to feel mechanical (e.g. “I did a line of coke”) without going into the feelings of being under the influence of the substance, which would have made her story feel much more believable. And while I did also feel like the description of the rehabilitation process felt a little sugar coated, I commend her for trying to tackle such a tough subject.
As for the historical arc, it’s typical Riley in that it’s a slow burn to get to the connection to the present day (something Electra even comments on), but it’s never boring. While there are some elements of the “white savior” narrative, with Cecily taking in an African orphan, I did enjoy how that part of the narrative explored the evolution of race relations in the mid-twentieth century with the rise of the civil rights movement, as well as a look at the Happy Valley set in Kenya, a topic I’ve read a bit about in a couple other books.
I adored this book, and it sent me on a roller coaster of emotions, especially towards the end. If you’ve loved the series up till now, this is another winner.
Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland, and after an early career as an actress in film, theatre and television, wrote her first book aged twenty-four. Her books have been translated into over thirty five languages and sold twenty million copies worldwide. She is a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller.
Lucinda is currently writing The Seven Sisters series, which tells the story of adopted sisters and is based allegorically on the mythology of the famous star constellation. The first five books, have all been No.1 bestsellers across the world, and the rights to a multi-season TV series have already been optioned by a Hollywood production company.
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