Richler, Emma Sister Crazy

ISBN 13: 9780007118298

Sister Crazy

3.25 avg rating
( 124 ratings by GoodReads )
 
9780007118298: Sister Crazy

Both comic and deeply serious. A truly dazzling debut.’ BERYL BAINBRIDGE

Jemima Weiss grew up with a special feeling for Action Man, American westerns, the Knights of the Round Table, bagels with cheddar on the top and, above all else, her family: her rumpled father, glamorous mother and four remarkable siblings. Now grown into a worldly yet deeply troubled woman, Jem reflects on her days as a young girl, even as she struggles not to be engulfed by the present.

An edgy and deeply funny account about growing up in a close-knit family, and the difficulties of breaking away, in fact, of making oneself break away from the security of the family bonds.

An extraordinarily brilliant piece of writing. Emma Richler has chosen to tell a classic tale, one which writers often cut their teeth on, but the voice and the style she brings to this novel is simply astonishing. The combination of ingenious comedy and absolutely devastating bombshells of detail makes this book a rare thing indeed.

Great review coverage on hb publication. Featured in end-of-year round ups.

Festival appearances throughout 2002

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Review:

Jem Weiss, the funny, temperamental narrator of Emma Richler's debut novel, Sister Crazy, has to navigate the proverbial perils of growing up within a sprawling, eccentric family. This coming-of-age tale is a well-worn path for debut novelists and at times Jem's stream-of-consciousness meditations on topics as diverse as Action Man, King Arthur and Einstein's Theory of Relativity recall the alienated, elliptical musings of Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield or The Bell Jar's Esther Greenwood. However, this isn't the usual tale of teenagers not belonging, but rather a story of belonging too much, of not knowing how to grow up and leave this wonderful familial cocoon. Jem is almost painfully close to her parents and siblings: her serene and almost supernaturally gifted mother; her ramshackle Jewish father; and her Action Man-playing elder brother, Jude. Then there's Harriet, the sensitive and capricious younger sister; Gus, the science-loving youngest sibling; and finally Ben, the wise, patient eldest brother.

These sweet, humorous family vignettes are juxtaposed alongside fragments of Jem's life many years later, fully-grown and suffering from an undisclosed mental illness. The once overly delicate and ethereal Harriet is now Jem's greatest comfort, a sensible and calming influence on a woman who has failed to find her place in a more hostile adult world. At one point Jem asks, "When does childhood end?"--a phrase that seems to capture the essence of her predicament. Her incredibly strong feelings for her family members remain suspended in time, but their lives have all moved on and the reliable demarcations of childhood have evaporated forever. While the surreal family anecdotes sometimes outstay their welcome and the source of Jem's subsequent troubles remains unsatisfactorily muddy, this is still an inspired debut, seamlessly fusing comedy and sadness to fashion a fresh and original look at a familiar theme. --Jane Morris

Review:

‘The tone is confiding, the form original and I was charmed and impressed.’ Observer

‘A charmer with a dangerous undertow’ Time Out

'There is an enticingly breathless quality to Richler's prose, and in a childlike dash, she guides us through her elegy for lost youth. Her incisive observations on the intricacies of family dynamics are by turns whimsical, intense and darkly funny.' TLS

'Stunning…Richler has written a deeply moving book. Her language is electric, her formal poise astonishing in a first novel; her observations of the world of children, of the terror of madness, riveting. And she is bold and witty and will make you laugh out loud.' Lisa Appignanesi

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