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  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Review: The Blue Sisters - Coco Mellors

Genre: Literary Fiction

Published: Fourth Estate, May 2024

My Rating: 3/5 stars

"A sister is not a friend. Who can explain the urge to take a relationship as primal and complex as a sibling and reduce it to something as replaceable, as banal as a friend?"

Blue Sisters has an eerily similar set-up to another recently released novel I read, and gave a similar rating. That being The Alternatives. Both follow the lives of 4 sisters, each highly accomplished and successful when judged by our “typical societal standards” (attractive, wealthy, with exceptional careers), yet each struggling with complex emotional troubles. In each story, these siblings reconnect after one of them has vanished from their lives, and old dynamics resurface. Whilst I love the family-dynamic aspect of both these novels, reading them made me realize something vital: I’m so tired of this subgenre of “the woes of the wealthy women’s fiction”. Sally Rooney, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and yes, the authors previous work Cleopatra and Frankenstein: to me, they all started to feel like a dime a dozen.

The story:

The Blue sisters, despite growing up closely together, couldn’t have been more different. There’s Avery; a successful lawyer who’s built a seemingly perfect life with her wife in upstate London after recovering from a past of substance abuse. Bonnie: a professional boxer of top class touring the world with her trainer. Nicky, the middle child and connecting factor of the family, working as a teacher, but struggling with chronic pain from endometriosis. And finally Lucky, an international model who has graced billboards around the world.

When Nicky unexpectedly passes away, it sends the 3 remaining sisters spiraling out of control and away from each other. A year later, when their mother announces it’s time to sell Nicky’s apartment which has been kept in a state of suspension ever since her death, the three finally reconnect and confront their individual and shared grief.

What I loved:

The novel wears its themes up its sleeve; grief and addiction in many forms, and the special bond between siblings that allows (and sometimes forces) the characters to stick together through it all. The Blue sisters carry this story, and their character development is solid enough to support that. It feels like the author knows them through and through individually ánd as a family unit. This allows her to infuse each of their sections with a lot of personality. Even without reading the name above each chapter, there would have been no confusion as to which perspective we are reading from (something that was a problem for me in The Alternatives at times.

When it comes to the writing, Mellors has some greatly quotable lines and a few profound scenes. That being said, often it feels like well-trodden ground. Lines and insights are quite formulaic and even cliché and lack the depth to support their quasi-profound delivery. More on this in the next section.

What I didn’t love:

Apart from the genre just not being my jam in particular, I had 2 major issues with Mellors writing style. Retrospectively, I recognized these from my attempt at reading Cleopatra and Frankenstein. There’s the general adagio of “show, don’t tell” in writing, and Mellors choses to do the exact opposite. She describes and tells us everything about these characters, their feelings towards each other and even the deeper traumas that lie at the foot of those interactions, without ever showing them through their actions on page. We are told “Avery and her mother have always had a strained relationship. It’s because Avery never felt like her mother wanted her in the first place”, rather than being shown their uneasy interaction. It’s almost like you’re reading the authors character-profile-notes, rather than the fully fledged novel that was supposed to spawn from it.

Secondly, the pacing is way off. The first 70% of the page count is taken up by individual selfdestruction-city. It’s repetitive and almost made me way to DNF the story multiple times. Only after that, when we get to see the true interpersonal conflict and resolution play out between the sisters that the story becomes good.

Overall, I’m sad to say that this was about as middle-of-the-road as it gets for me. I feel like fans of the works I mentioned earlies might still love Mellors sophomore novel. To me, it made it clear that this is a genre that I’m burned out on.

You can find this book here on Goodreads.


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