Monday, October 24, 2011

Sisters and brothers

Sibling relationships- for those of us who have them, they can be one of the earliest learning grounds in our lives for conflict, natural justice, and emotions, both positive and negative.
I just finished reading 2011 Booker Prize short-listed novel The Sisters Brothers, and while there were many things I didn't enjoy about the novel, I think the thing that kept me hooked and reading was the relationship between the two brothers, Eli and Charlie Sisters. I have a brother of my own, no sisters, and ours has not been what you could call a harmonious relationship. And yet there are times where we've each needed an ally, and we've always known we could turn to each other.

Because of that, I could really identify with some aspects of the relationship between the Sisters brothers, two hired gun assassins in the old West who have a marked disregard for human life in general, but would do just about anything for each other, thanks to love, obligation, and all those other things that make up sibling relationships.

My own novel is driven by the core relationship between brothers Bill and Len, looking at the other side of the coin- a situation where the one person Bill should be able to trust screws him over and wrecks his life. How do you come back from a trust that broken? How do you even get to that place in the first instance? Exploring those dynamics never gets old for me. When I put those characters together, all kinds of things evolve. Like a fingerprint, no sibling relationship is just like any other, which I think is why they make for such fertile fictional fodder.

Not having had any sisters of my own, that dynamic is a little more foreign to me, though of course I know what it's like to *be* a sister myself, at least to a brother. Several authors I know write brilliant sisterly relationships- when Kristen's Firelight is released in February next year, you'll get to meet a trio of feisty ladies who make me wish I had my own girl gang (as opposed to wishing I was an only child, something my brother prompted me to do many times over the years).

And next year, I get to observe what happens when my own daughter becomes a sister, to a little brother, no less, and I'm sure that dynamic will be absolutely fascinating as well.

Siblings. Do you have them, or are you an only child? Do the good and bad parts of being a brother or a sister worm their way into your fiction, directly or indirectly? And who are your favourite fictional siblings?


  1. Aw, thanks, Claire. :) The sisters in FIRELIGHT were definitely based on my experiences with my own sisters. I've always liked books, stories with siblings who get along rather than fight.

    I think my favorite sibling pair in fiction might be Fred and George in Harry Potter, but...sniffle...I can't think about how that ends now...why? Why?1? Ahem. Carry on.

  2. Great post, Claire. I don't have sisters either, and thus love reading stories about their dynamics, too ... heh, as for my own fictional sibling interactions, well, my brother and sister characters have what can only be called a dysfunctional relationship. Nothing like the relationships I have with my own brothers, for which I am very grateful!

    As for favourite fictional siblings ... yes, I agree, Kristen's sisters are fabulous ... as are the March siblings in Deanna Raybourn's books. I especially enjoy the relationship between Julia and Portia; they're so very real, and their bantering makes me laugh out loud. Good stuff! :-)

  3. Kristen's right about Fred and George. Sniff.
    I've got a sister, and brotherly dynamics are the ones that are new to me - I've learned a lot from watching how DH's sister interacts with him and their other brother. Now all my nieces and nephews are brother-sister pairs, and that's been interesting to watch too.
    I wonder, if I'd grown up with brothers, would I be writing more female characters? Leaving aside romance, nearly all my other stories have been male-centred...

  4. I am very close with my brother, though we struggled to find some common ground in our early teens. I think, maybe, it's why I love reading and writing siblings.

    Scout and Jem in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' are among my favorites. Who hasn't experienced, in one way or another, the loss of childhood innocence? Bittersweet.

    I, however, would read over and over again those sibling relationships, beautiful though fraught with imperfection, in Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' and Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'.

    My WIP centers on the mysterious relationship between two sisters. I cannot wait till they meet! (; Why two sisters? Well, 'cause I never had one.