Top Five Saturday: Books Featuring Sibling Relationships

The Top 5 series is back! Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously on the blog I have focused on witches, werewolves, thrillers, faeries, fairy tale re-tellings, high fantasy and many more. I am going to try and bring this series back for every Saturday.

PREVIOUS TOP FIVE SATURDAY LISTS:

14th March 2020: Books with Beautiful Covers

21st March 2020: Magical Realism

28th March 2020: Murder Mystery

4th April 2020: Books to Read whilst Stuck Inside / Quarantined

11th April 2020: Books with a Colour in the Title


I have a slightly strange and strained relationship with my brother: I can easily go months, years without making contact save for the obligatory birthday and Christmas cards. No trauma, no animosity. We are just very different people, very distant, with nothing really in common. Mind you, lockdown has boosted our contact markedly! So, thinking about sibling relationships in books which move me – and which generally tend to be sisterly rather than fraternal relationship – are those which either show that deep, intimate closeness, or deep rivalry and antagonism. Or often both at the same time!

There are some loving and supportive family and sibling relationships in crime fiction – Simon Serrailler and Kat Deerbon for example in Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler series – and more often difficult ones such as Scorcher Kennedy and Dina in Tana French’s Broken Harbour. But these are more directly focused on those sibling relationships.

The List

My Sister the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

How far would you go to protect your sister?

Korede protects her sister to an extreme length including cleaning up the scene and disposing of the bodies of the men she has killed. The opening lines are wonderful:

Ayoola summons me with these words—Korede, I killed him.
I had hoped I would never hear those words again.

But how will she react when Ayoola’s toxic and dangerous relationships with men start to impinge on Korede’s own life and draw in a man she loves?

Braithwaite really explores that co-dependent sisterly relationship so well! And explores some of the reasons that may lie behind it, within a vivid Nigerian setting.

Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie

Based on the Sophocles’ Antigone, the first written but third in order of the Theban plays, it is clear that family is likely to be significant! This is a family born of Oedipus and Jocasta, son and husband, mother and wife!

Shamsie depicts Isma and Aneeka’s relationship so beautifully! Difficult and protective and suspicious – and their brother Parvaiz who was groomed into joining ISIS in Syria.

Oh those final powerful chapters! My heart still aches!

Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

One of the lovely things in this book was the conflict between the Richardson family of four siblings – Isabelle, Lexie, Trip and Moody – and the single mother Mia and her only daughter Pearl.

The way that Pearl seems to yearn for and seek out the sibling relationships that she seems to miss, inserting herself and knitting herself into the Richardson family, whilst Izzy detatched herself from it…

Izzy’s newfound fascination with Mia proved lasting. Instead of sequestering herself in her bedroom with her violin, she would walk the mile and a half to the house on Winslow right after school, where Mia would be hard at work. She would watch Mia, learning to frame a shot, develop film, make a print. Pearl, meanwhile, did the exact reverse, walking with Moody to his house, lounging in the sunroom with the three oldest Richardson children.

See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt

This is a wonderfully visceral and unsettling – unheimlich – depiction of the notorious Lizzie Borden murders in America.

Lizzie’s father and step-mother are discovered brutally murdered on August 4th 1892 and Lizzie was accused of their murder.

The novel opens on the same day and discovery of the murder and Lizzie is clearly different in some ways. The joy of the novel is her relationship with her older sister Emma – simultaneously loving intimate and desperate to become independent. Schmidt’s writing almost shows the two girls merging together physically

Circe, Madeline Miller

For a novel that begins with “WHEN I WAS BORN, the name for what I was did not exist. They called me nymph, assuming I would be like my mother and aunts and thousand cousins” the notion of family is likely to be critical.

In terms of siblings, Circe (sorceress and pharmakis) has a dangerous collection! Her sister is Pasiphaë, who compelled Daedalus to help her fornicate with a bull and bore the minotaur, which Circe helps to deliver. Her brother is Perses dabbles in darker magics and necromancy and “conjures souls into flesh again”. And, he becomes truly monstrous: as Pasiphaë says “You know nothing of Perses. Do you know how I had to keep him happy? The things I had to do?”

A gallery of five sibling relationships in books on my TBR Pile

The level of importance of the sibling relationships seem at least to be strong enough to the cited in blurbs…

The Most Fun We Ever Had, Claire Lombardo; Nightingale Point, Luan Goldie; The Sisters Grimm, Menna van Praag; The Lost Man, Jane Harper; Miss Austen, Gill Hornby.

A gallery of five sibling relationships in YA fiction

Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys; The Rest of us Just live Here, Patrick Ness; A Series of Unfortunate Incidents, Lemony Snicket; One, Sarah Crossan; Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge.

A gallery of five sibling relationships in Shakespeare (trying hard to ignore The Comedy of Errors)

King Lear (oh Edgar and Edmund; ooohh Regan, Goneril and Cordelia!), Hamlet (Old Hamlet and Claudius); As You Like It; Twelfth Night; The Tempest.

Upcoming TOP FIVE SATURDAY LISTS:

25th April 2020 — Books Under 300 Pages

The Tags

This week, I thought I would tag all fellow British book bloggers!

Amy @ Amy’s Bookish Life

Amy @ Prose Among the Thorns

Gemma @ Gemma’s Bookshelf

Rebecca @ Big Books and Hot Chocolate

Olivia @ Literature Liv

12 comments

  1. I love this idea – and it all looks so pretty! May start doing this next week. Another book with a strange sibling relationship is ‘God of Small Things’. I read it in my first year at university, such a strange book but an amazing read.

    Liked by 1 person

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