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The Sisters Antipodes: A Memoir

3.12  ·  Rating details ·  655 ratings  ·  138 reviews
“A wrenching, luminous memoir” of how betrayal and divorce transformed two families and the lives of two young women ( People ).
When Jane Alison was a child, her family met another that seemed like its mirror. Each had a father in the Foreign Service, a beautiful mother, and two little girls. The younger two—one of them Jane—even shared a birthday.
With so m
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 9th 2010 by Mariner Books (first published March 16th 2009)
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Average rating 3.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  655 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: girls with daddy issues
Man, I really loved this. Memoir might be another one of those things that I think I really hate, but in fact don't. I might just hate the idea of it, of how rampant it's become and how much memoir embodies this idea that's so pervasive right now about how everyone's individual story is so fascinating and important just because it's true, and how any level of event or emotional pain so significant and unique and worth moaning on about, only because it happened... A lot of the reviews on here too ...more
Cindy Vine
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has got to be one of the most beautifully-written books I've read in a long time. I'm not usually one for memoirs, but the story about two couples starting out as friends and then swapping partners could be the story of my childhood as that's what happened in my family. The resultant jealousy, feelings, rivalry still occur in our family 37 years later so it is definitely something I could identify with. For me this book was more the creation of an artist than a writer, as the descriptions f ...more
I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had not been misled by its presentation. The concept of two families who are mirror images of each other meeting and becoming jumbled in each others' lives is a fascinating one, but not the focal point of this book. It's no wonder I felt as if the text was artfully dancing around the core of the story rather than digging into it.

The author is an accomplished writer, and very good at recreating slices of life throughout her past, even if she is ra
Mar 21, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Two couples, each with two daughters about the same age, meet in Australia. The fathers worked in Foreign Service. The couples switch partners, divorce, and the two daughters from each of the original couples end up living with their birth mothers and new stepfathers. Jane Alison is one of the daughters. Now one would think that situation would present the author with terrific fodder for a fascinating memoir. Nope!

Alison's memory is spotty at best, miring the reader down into the minutest detail
Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
An Australian family in the foreign service meets an American family, also in the foreign service, and with 2 similarly-aged daughters to match their own. The couples hit it off - so much so that they end up divorcing and swapping partners with each other. This is the true story of the author's childhood growing up with the repercussions of that situation. Communication at that time was expensive and not technologically advanced (ex: no email), so the geographical separation of the families due ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't decide if I liked this story or not. In short, it's a story about a girl growing up whose parents got divorced and married another couple who also had daughters (so, each couple started with two girls, got divorced, the couples changed partners, the girls all grew up with new dads--very confusing, I know), and all of the heartache that followed. It is very intriguing, in a "can't stop looking at the car crash" kind of way, but it is hard to enjoy a book when every single character is com ...more
Mary Blye Kramer
I wish I could give this book 10 stars, or 100. I sat stunned after I finished the last page. The writing is extraordinary, exquisite. The story is wrenching and beautiful. The depth with which the author tells it is astonishing.

Parents swap partners, her mother marrying the other man, her dad marrying the other woman. All former friends. The girls live with their mothers and stepdads and the author spends the entirety of the book trying to untwist the saga, eek out the “why”, and most important
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-books
Powerful, evocative and incredibly compelling - I would devour a few pages and start to race ahead but then needed to hold my self back and let the actual words sink in. Each paragraph was so full of beautiful writing and such naked feeling it could not be rushed.

Jane Alison (Cummins, Stuart) is the second daughter of an Australian diplomat who swapped his family for another, the other family also had two daughters and an American diplomat. Jane's Father Stepmother and Step Sisters remained in A
Jul 20, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
This is a biography of Jane Alison...when she was 4 years old, her family met another family...each family had two little girls, and she was one of the younger ones, who shared the birthday as the other little girl, but who was one year older. The families spent lots of time together, and Jane and the other youngest girl, Jenny, often were bathed together, thus the title of the book...antipodes means two bodies pressed together...foot to foot, exactly how they bathed.

The two couples divorced, m
Allison Elizabeth
Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Jane Alison is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers.
I fell in love with her lyrical prose in The Love-Artist: A Novel and was hungry to read more, ordering both The Sisters Antipodes and The Marriage of the Sea: A Novel (yet to arrive).
Within the first few pages I was once again instantly pulled in by her prose but this, being personal, was significantly different. Where The Love-Artist was fantastical, painting a lush portrait of a lost world, The Sisters Antipodes is raw, real, and rou
Jun 11, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, psych, memoir
This book is well-written. However, I finished it with a mixture of relief that it was over, sadness that these things would never be over for the author, and a strange disconnectedness from the events Alison discusses. I have a hard time reading works in which there is nothing uplifting amidst tragedy (and I have a fairly wide definition of "uplifting"), it is true. But I found myself, as awful as this sounds, not really caring what happened to Alison. There are so many utterly devastating true ...more
Laura Hogensen
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm a huge Jane Alison fan after reading "Nine Island" - her nonfiction novel. The way she writes may not be for everyone. She's a solitary writer who enjoys playing word and association games with her readers - particularly around themes of force/submission, female/male, transformation/sublimation/projection/suppression in classical myths. While she's not a cynical writer, she's also not particularly sunny. It's clear that she feels much, but her style is self contained, unsparing, and unsentim ...more
Nov 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a sad but beautifully written memoir about the life of the author. Jane Alison experienced a very strange breach of family at the age of four: her parents met another family that were the mirror images of themselves, both couples divorced and married a member of the other pair. As each family had two daughters of the same age, Jane grew up with a strong sense of competition for the affection of her father, who now lived with two other little girls, and her new stepfather, who still had a ...more
Apr 02, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: probably no one
Recommended to Liz by: people magazine
Shelves: memoirs
jane tells of her life living apart from her father and winning his love and her new stepfathers love. When living in Australia, two families switch wives and kids. Each family has two girls, and eventually each new family will have a son.
Jane constantly competes against her stepsister for each father and stepfathers love. Jennie has the same bday just a year older, and both are very similar in so many ways. Jane tells her story as she fights thru jealousy, love, anger, fear, and acceptance.

Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
pretty boring. i know it's a book and all, but it seems like all the author does is TALK. and it's all about how she's jealous of her father's new family and how they must have a perfect life and she got the sh*t end of the exchange (of fathers). i use the present tense because it's apparent that she STILL feels that way and hasn't gotten over much. i'm pretty much just waiting for it to be over.

Ok so it's over. mild surprise at the end but other than that her life's a mess.
Jan 16, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
My friend was nice enough to give me this book. (thanks, S!) Sadly, I didn't love it. It was fascinating and on paper it sounds like it would be an incredible story: in the 60s, a girl's parents switch partners with another family, creating a mirror image family (both families had two girls about the same age) that lived on the other side of the world. However, I found that it was mostly a story about the author's lack and search of a father figure, a rather whiny story at that. Sorry, S! ...more
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Painful and poignant memoir. Written with honesty. Soul searching without psychobabble. Every little girl needs her daddy, and when this basic need is not fulfilled, the ramifications into adulthood may prove tragic.
Library Biography #63

When I picked this book from the library shelves, I was excited to read it. The family situation highlighted on the book flap made it seem intriguing.

Alison's memoir, "The Sisters Antipodes," circled around her peculiar family - her parents met another couple with so many similarities and ended up swapping partners. She would lose her father (in a sense), not seeing him for 7 years, only knowing him through pictures and letters. The same would hold true for her step-sister,
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s a memoir that is almost too bizarre to imagine. 2 families, both young, both with 2 daughters almost the same ages, both in the Foreign Service. One family is Australian, the other American. They meet, become friends - and switch partners. The children stay with their mothers and the new ‘fathers’. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t work out well... It’s a well written memoir and compelling, but as disturbing as you’d imagine. The author never truly finds out how it all came to be - or why.
Feb 25, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A painful read; it seemed that was reading scattered papers of a teenage diary whose life events are a result of the evil step sister. There are so many flashbacks that weren’t important to the narrative and the repetitive nature of some statements were disservice. This book needed an editor who probably would have told the author to abandon the producer of writing a 200 + pages memoir and focus instead on a 1500 words essay.
Jane Hammons
Parts of this book are wonderful, and I very much like the reflective, non-linear structure. It's somewhat repetitive in a way that does not create resonance (which I think is what Alison is attempting). In some ways, it felt like a book that might have been better as a long essay--or a shorter book. ...more
Kirstin O'Connor
Nov 17, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I kept struggling through with this one and I am not sure why i really liked the descriptive style at times and then it would feel totally disjointed and all over the place. Didn’t connect with the characters at all and found it hard to follow.
Katya Mclemore
This book was a very interesting book. Two girls pretty much living each other’s lives with each others families. Though it was a very good book, it also got confusing. Sometimes I got lost reading it, but it’s amazing that this is a real life story. I would recommend this book.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story was fascinating but I wanted to hear from other people's perspectives. ...more
Susan  Collinsworth
Pretty f****g compelling, and not just (I believe) because I am a child of divorce myself. Beautiful language and imagery, coupled with insight. Too bad it had to be used on such a sad subject.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story was a bit complicated, because her story was complicated, but the writing is gorgeous.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book about the 70s and 80s and their toll

A perfect story about the shifting definition of family as the western world gave up on its old gods and rules.
Recommended by a fellow fan of dysfunctional family memoirs. Cerebral and slow, but still fit the bill!
Shari Strong
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five stars isn’t nearly enough.
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this memoir. I don’t know if I will be able to stop thinking about it. The story itself is compelling, but the way it is written propelled me forward. I could barely put it down.
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Jane Alison was born in Canberra, Australia, and grew up in the Australian and U.S. foreign services. She attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and earned a B.A. in classics from Princeton University. Before writing fiction, she worked as an administrator for the National Endowment for the Humanities, as a production artist for the Washington City Paper, as an editor for the Miami New Times ...more

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