Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: The Canterbury Sisters

Title:  The Canterbury Sisters

Author: Kim Wright
Publisher: 19th May 2015 by Gallery, Threshold Pocket Books
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: womens fiction, chick lit, contemporary, British Literature
My Rating:  two and a half cups


Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage.

Within days she joins a group of women who are walking the sixty miles from London to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, reputed to be the site of miracles. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love. Che, who is a perfectionist and workaholic, loses her cell phone at the first stop and is forced to slow down and really notice the world around her, perhaps for the first time in years.

Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.

My thoughts:

The book tells the stories of 9 women that are doing a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Canterbury. In the spirit of Chaucer, each will tell a story of love as they progress with their journey. Sounds appealing. Well, I am sorry to say, I had A LOT of issues with this book.

The premise of the book was what attracted me in the first place (well, that and the cover - the relevance of it being a whole other issue). However, it was very different from what I initially expected and the further along I went, the more frustrated I became. There were too many characters and I felt that because of this, there was not enough foundation laid which in turn led it to being somewhat superficial. There were also several inclusions of information that did not make sense; that it appears to be an information dump. For example: a detailed discussion on Cinderella being the one true princess. At times the author jumps around and off topic:

“My mind flashes back to a vineyard tour I took last summer in Sonoma”.

However my main criticism with the book is that the central character, Che, is the least likeable. She's judgmental of others; thinks nothing of ‘hurling insults’ at her fellow travellers; her words and actions leaving a bad taste, therefore I felt little to no sympathy for her:

“ The only black person in the group, which should have made it easier to remember her name, but I can’t think of that one either”.

And her random departure on the trip without informing others, says much about her character –

“You’re thinking that I’m playing a cruel game with him”


Seeing few flaws in herself, being the strong minded individual Che is, I find it hard to reconcile her choices:

“Here’s what I don’t have. I don’t have a mother, or a lover, or a phone, or any fucking clue of why I’m here ….. I do not deny that on occasion I can be clever, witty talented, good in bed, and yes, even attractive”.

At times she is far too flippant for my liking, that I obviously can’t appreciate what can only be described as black comedy:

“An incinerated human body creates a lot of ash. I can afford to scatter some of her willy-nilly along the way…(some ends up in her mouth)…Of course. What else? I spit her out and turn back”.

On the whole I found the stories more often than not depressing, and Che a rather sad individual:

“It isn’t forty that rips a woman’s life into bits, it’s fifty”.

“If you start to think, who knows, you might start to feel and there’s no telling where that winding road might lead. This is why we must have our books and phones, and earbuds and lovers, even if they’re the wrong people”.

So it was a two star read for me until at almost 80% of the book gone, some semblance of genuine voice comes through. Sadly, the problem is, having read through so much angst, the message gets lost. That being:

“That no matter how far or fast we walk, everyone eventually circles back. Comes face-to-face with whatever they were trying to escape”.

This is great stuff, but sadly just too little too late for me:

“Because this is what we have all come for. All this time, all this way. All the weird shit that’s happened. This is what it’s been leading up to, isn’t it?”

How best to sum up The Canterbury Sisters, it’s …

“mile after mile, hour after hour, through the English countryside listening to tales of compromise and reinvention, stories of jealous sisters …. dementia and pornography, because once a woman gets past a certain age…she’s forced to accept that when it comes to love, things will never be simple again”.

Such a sad outlook and having had to wade through so much, I did not find the resolution at the end had been worth the journey.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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