My Sister Who Lives on the Mantelpiece is a novel about a family struggling to let go after the death of their eldest daughter, Rose. Told from the perspective of ten year old Jamie, the book follows the broken family five years after the tragedy.
This is Annabel Pitcher’s debut novel and there’s a lot going on crammed into around 200 pages: alcoholism, prejudice, school drama and, of course, grief. Jamie was so young when everything happened, he doesn’t recall much, and so he’s growing up expecting to miss someone he doesn’t remember. Pitcher manipulates your emotions into feeling empathy for poor Jamie, sympathy for some characters and complete hatred for others. It’s honest and touching but still manages to be funny.
As for writing style, it’s as if it’s straight from a 10 year old boy’s mind. Some parts are simplified and the story goes off on a tangent whenever Jamie daydreams. It’s effective for helping to imagine the characters, but personally I found it a little hit and miss.
Something that did particularly stand out for me was the relationship Jamie has with his older sister, Jas. Jas was Rose’s identical twin sister, and while she’s had to take on a lot more responsibility since the breakdown of the family, she’s also trying to cope with the loss and the pressure of being the surviving daughter. You get to see snippets of her journey of discovering who she is and experiencing teenage life without her sister.
Without wanting to spoil too much, there’s an epilogue from Jas’ point of view which is the perfect was to tie up the story. It pulls at the heart strings and made me want to re-read the whole story from her perspective.
The book is marketed as teen reading/young adult depending on where you shop. I would recommend it for 10 – 13 year olds to read, although I could see it being enjoyed by people of all ages.