Monday 27 May 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of A Tale of Two Sisters by Merryn Allingham

A Tale of Two Sisters: A heartfelt historical drama of intrigue, love and loss in a strange land

"Recommended for those who enjoy women’s fiction and tales of the Turkish Orient."


family drama / mystery / romance
England / Constantinople

‘Separated by time and distance, two sisters seek answers for all they’ve lost.’

Alice Verinder is the sensible, responsible sister: the one who thinks it is her role to care for her ailing parents in their sad Pimlico home. Lydia is the impulsive, dynamic sister: a suffragette who has been caught throwing stones and had to escape the country – all the way to Constantinople. Between them lies the ghost of a much-loved brother, a joyful spirit who has recently died in a university prank. Quiet Alice, the spinster in Pimlico, lives for Lydia’s letters from the Topkapi palace, where she is supposed to be working as a governess. When the letters stop Alice becomes uneasy, then determined to find and save her wayward sister, as she has done many times before. But this time it is far, far more difficult because when Alice finally arrives in the palace, to which she is made welcome, she can find no trace of her sister, and no one willing to suggest where Lydia might be.

Alone in an alien environment, Alice turns to a diffident yet somewhat brusque Englishman called Harry Frome for help. Harry works in the palace library, a quiet occupation that has some very disturbing connections. The library, like much else related to ex-patriot life in Constantinople, is controlled by the large, over-bearing and sinister Valentin Boucher, who Alice fears is involved in Lydia’s disappearance.

As Alice and Harry begin to investigate Lydia’s secret life, they know they are being followed, a situation that draws them together and helps them find affection – but otherwise puts their own lives in danger.

A Tale of Two Sisters is a gently exciting good read. Told from the two sisters’ different points of view, this is the sort of old-fashioned story that implies the worst without exaggeration or explicit sex and violence – although they are all there. A chocolate box-type novel with sharp spikes and unexpected twists and turns.

Recommended for those who enjoy women’s fiction and tales of the Turkish Orient.

© J.G. Harlond

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