Susan Lanigan's Reviews > The Sisterhood

The Sisterhood by Penelope Friday
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really liked it

A really lovely, gentle but incisive look at morals, manners and attitudes to slavery in regency England.

Charity Bellingham displeases her own parents from birth for not being born a boy: they favour her sweet-natured, feminine older sister Rebecca. Charity is awkward, not suited to the clothing of the period and rather too tall for dancing as a lady. However an unfortunate marriage in the family puts her in the way of well-connected and persuasive Isobelle Greenaway and her life is transformed in an instant.

We're brought on a highly enjoyable romp through the politics of the ton and the machinations of a group of women-identified women and how they make a life for themselves in which the very existence of women depends largely on the goodwill of men. The awkward issue of slavery pops up and unlike Jane Austen, there is no attempt to hide away how much of England's gentry's wealth is founded on pure human misery and suffering. Indeed Charity herself is brought face to face with that ethical dilemma when Nan points it out to her. Friday, who has done her homework and it shows, wisely does not widen the scope of the book too much (Jo Baker's Longbourn, an otherwise excellently written novel, tends to throw in too much about the Napoleonic wars - in The Sisterhood, a passing reference by Rebecca's husband is enough.)

Isobelle herself is a complicated, warm character, difficult to dislike even in her more awkward moments, and her friend Nan Musgrove a pleasant counterpoint. I really liked the nuance of the characters and how they developed through the story. There was the occasional anachronism, such as the use of the word "boycott" with reference to sugar since that word did not enter the lexicon until 1880 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boycott) but that did not significantly impede my enjoyment of the story.

Recommended for enjoyable historical fiction with characters that evolve naturally and who you will genuinely care about.

http://www.bellabooks.com/ for more information.
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Reading Progress

July 2, 2016 – Started Reading
July 2, 2016 – Shelved
July 3, 2016 – Finished Reading

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