The Ugly Sister is my first book by author Jane Fallon. I liked the blurb of the novel, and it was the reason I picked up this book. The story follows Abi, who never had much of a relationship with her sister Cleo especially after she became a famous model when they were teenagers. Abi decides to accept an invitation from her sister to come and stay with her for the summer.
The story is pretty straightforward in its plot, but it is difficult to describe it in brief. Abi decides to spend her summer with her sister Cleo and her family. She accepts the invitation because she literally feels like she doesn’t have much to do. Her daughter Phoebe is 18 and traveling before, she goes to University so, Abi is going to be alone anyway. Cleo is a supermodel, who was discovered on the streets when she was 16. Her life is different than Abi’s; she has a glamorous life in Primrose Hill. Cleo is married to Jon and has two daughters, Megan and Tara.
The main characters of the book are Abi and Cleo. Both of them are not very likable, but Abi has some redeeming qualities. Abi has spent her life being compared to her beautiful sister Cleo. The insecurities and emotional issues that arise from this are prominent in the way Abi feels about herself. Though, it does feel like the impact of it has worn off, during some situations it’s clear that the issues run deep. Cleo is so annoying. She takes her husband and daughters for granted and uses Abi as a free babysitter while she chases her comeback dreams. In the end, you feel better that she is living a separate life from Jon and her daughters; she has toxic traits.
As the story progresses, you see life changing directions for Abi and Cleo. Abi though always feels like a second fiddle, she is her own person. Her relationship with her daughter is portrayed well and even Megan and Tara take a liking to her. The hints of romance between Abi and Jon are sort of unexpected but not completely. Both of them get along great from the start. There is chemistry and understanding is palatable and they do realize given the circumstances it is not appropriate and don’t act on it. Jon is a good character. He seems completely normal and grounded.
The story is interesting and keeps you engaged. I read it in a couple of days because I wanted to know what happens next. The narration style is distinct. It is almost in the third person but in the present tense. It didn’t bother me. The characters act in a questionable way but in Abi’s case, there are instances where you can relate to her. The weird comparison dynamic is a universal feeling and, in a way, makes you understand Abi better because you know where it stems from. Some decisions both the sisters take are morally questionable which is the reason for me saying that both are dislikeable. The ending is not a defined happy ending, it is hinted that things out fine for all characters.
The story was more character-driven, and I think it worked well. Once the characters and their histories are established, it becomes easy to navigate the story. I liked reading The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon. I might check out her other works too.
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