My Sister Myself by Jill Treseder Silverwood Books July 31st 2018
Hungary, 1956. Russian tanks brutally crush the revolution against the Communist regime. Sisters Katalin and Marika escape Budapest with their family and settle in London.
However, the past is not so easily left behind. Their father is a wanted man, and the sisters’ relationship hangs in the balance. Their futures are shaped by loss. For Katalin, this means the failure of her ambition and a devastating discovery; for Marika, an equally heart-breaking experience.
Caught between their Hungarian heritage and their new lives in Britain, the sisters struggle to reconnect. Family secrets are exposed, jeopardising Katalin’s and Marika’s identities.
Can their relationship survive war, division and grief?
The plight of refugees is a topic never out of the headlines, and for some this may be their first encounter, yet it is something that has been prevalent throughout the world since time immemoriam. My Sister Myself was the story of Marika and Katalin, two young girls who fled the 1956 uprising in Budapest, Hungary.
My own experience of Budapest is one of beauty, a vibrant city full of culture and colour, Treseder’s Budapest is grey and colourless, the buildings in ruins, the people suppressed by communism, and it was her wonderful descriptions that drew me into this haunting novel.
It was a novel steeped in history, not just of Budapest but of London, the prejudice suffered by refugees, the lack of understanding but more importantly the effect it had on the refugees themselves.
Treseder, brilliantly captured the hardships of Marika and Katalin, their vulnerability and the struggle they had to be accepted and succeed.
Marika, the youngest, was the rebel, the ‘spoilt one’, Mamas favourite, who at first I didn’t like, but when events conspired against her, she was the one who dug deep and found inner resolve and determination.
Katalin, was the quieter of the two, a daddy’s girl, the hardworking clever one, but who throughout struggled with life, could not accept what fate and circumstance doled out to her. I found her incredibly frustrating, wanted to shake her at times, but knew that she was traumatised, unable to trust and reach out to those who only wanted to care for her.
I loved the sharp contrasts between the two sisters, how Treseder somehow used her narrative to show their raw emotion, and their hurt. The dynamics between them was often dramatic and full of taut tension that was at times too much to bear as these two poor young women fought not only themselves but also society.
It was a society that today, would be totally unacceptable, a lack of 24 hour news and social media made it hard for people to truly understand the circumstances and horrors that Marika and Katalin had escaped. I often wondered if Treseder herself had had first hand experience, so well did she encapsulate that society and time.
It could be said, that My Sister Myself was a bleak novel and indeed it was , but there were huge glimmers of light and the descriptions of Aunt Kluva and the Devon landscape lifted the novel out of the gloom. You could sense the healing presence of the sea and indeed of Aunt Kluva, who battled to bring light into the lives of the sisters, often with differing outcomes.
My Sister Myself was a novel full of raw emotion, of a time in history when the world was at odds, in the process of change and in some ways not for the better. It was the story of two girls who lost their home, their culture and their identity and how they fought their own demons to survive and succeed.
It was a novel that reeled you in, and wouldn’t let you go until the very last page, its themes hugely emotive and I was sad to leave the wonderful characters that Treseder created.
I would like to thank Silver Wood Books for a copy of My Sister Myself to read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.
But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.
Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved, but left because I could no longer cope with the system.
This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.
All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book ‘The Wise Woman Within’ resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.
I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.
Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.