Thursday, August 31, 2017

Women in Translation: Shadow Sister by Simone Van Der Vlugt

Usually, I don't enjoy modern mysteries because I feel the world intrudes too much. Racism, sexism, pedophilia, dysfunctional families become the foci of the novel rather than the murder. However, while reading Simone Van Der Vlugt's Shadow Sister, I was surprised when I became more interested in the problems that a teacher of a school faces rather than the suspense about the killer.




Lydia, one of the narrators of the novels (the other is her twin sister Elisa), is a teacher at Rotterdam College, a school where plenty of students are from Turkey and Morocco. Caught between the cultures, neither integrated nor even fully welcome in Holland, the students can be extremely volatile at times. But even Lydia is shocked when one of them threatens her with a knife. This to her tastes like a personal failure because she has taken the trouble to get close to her students - doing overtime, visiting their homes, attending inter-cultural coaching sessions etc.

This involvement with her work has brought many positive results and the students have started opening up and discussing their problems with her but it also has a downside: her husband, Raoul feels that she is neglecting their little daughter Valerie and would rather have her working part-time in his software company. This has caused quite a bit of friction between the two. Thus, it is to Elisa that Lydia turns for comfort. But is Elisa the right person to turn to?



The novel switches between the two narrative voices and what I loved was how much is revealed through the two voices. Neither of the women is what they assume they are and it is both creepy and funny as the reader gets a glimpse into their personalities. This makes for a very interesting read but the last few chapters feel forced and the identity of the killer is a big let-down.

That disappointment aside, I loved the narration, the sibling relationship, and the description of the problems that can beset a multi-racial institute. I will definitely look for more books by this author.

*

First Line: All of a sudden he's got a knife.



Original Title: Schaduwzuster
Original Language: Dutch
Translator: Michele Hutchison

Publication Details: London: Harper Collins, 2010
First Published: 2005
Pages: 282

Source: Bought @Delhi Book Fair, 2016.





8 comments:

  1. I'm glad you found things to like about this one, Neeru, even if it wasn't a total success for you. I'll admit I've not read it, but I do like the work of hers that I have read.

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    1. But for the last couple of chapters which seemed written in a hurry, this was a good read, Margot. I am glad you have liked her other works. I'd definitely look for them.

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  2. Sounds interesting. I am also reading a story about sisters - "A Soft Place to Land".

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    1. It is interesting. Do read it if you get a copy. I'll look for the book that you are reading.

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    2. Couldn't find this book in our library but have put another of her books on hold - "Safe as Houses". Will let you know when I read it.

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  3. Neer – I agree with your point about modern life intruding on the mystery, but only because too many books now use that as a way to pad the story. This one sounds good. I’ll give it a try. Thanks for the review.

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    1. Thanks Elgin for having a look. I don't like the padding but this book surprised me because I really became interested in the dynamics of a multi-racial school. I'd be interested in knowing what you make of it.

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