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Consent

von Annabel Lyon

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705310,430 (3.63)27
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LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
  Paraguaytea | Sep 25, 2021 |
I can't say I liked Lyon's book although it is clearly very well-written. It's about two sets of sisters, two of them disabled. And although there is so much more to the story I wasn't able to connect with any of the characters or the story in any meaningful way which made it feel remote. I don't have any siblings so I could be wrong in this, but these women did not show the sibling (or twin) relationships that I imagine should be there. The focus on perfume and clothes, particularly one dress, was puzzling and sorry to say, it went right over my head. The ending came as a surprise although I should have been prepared for it. What I enjoyed most about this thought-provoking story is that it's set in and around Vancouver. ( )
  VivienneR | Aug 8, 2021 |
3.5? This may change in coming weeks.

Vancouver, BC. Two women with sisters with mental diagnoses--Sara's sister Mattie is mentally disabled and will never live alone. Saskia's twin sister Jenny has always been impulsive and selfish (he diagnosis is never told to the reader).

Both women are now dealing with grief over the deaths of their sisters. Wracked by grief and guilt, they feel very alone, as their friendships with others are not as deep as they thought. They meet when Saskia starts looking into Jenny's friends and finds a link between the two deaths.

This story is gets darker as it goes on. I liked the dark parts, the storytelling of grief and loneliness and guilt. But somehow the perfume (see cover and story) and fashion thing is supposed to be important, they come up over and over, and that part I really didn't quite get. ( )
  Dreesie | Mar 27, 2021 |
Saskia and Jenny are twins but only equal in looks, their personalities could hardly differ more. Where Saskia is diligent and studious, Jenny enjoys life at the fullest and is always looking for some more thrill. Only a car accident in which she is seriously injured can put an end to her posh and impulsive lifestyle and brings the sisters back together. Mattie and Sara are sisters, too, the first with an intellectual disability, the second striving for academic success and the life she knows from stylish magazines. The latter sister pair, too, moves apart only to be forced together by fate again. Looking for reasons behind the tragic events, Saskia and Sara recognise that there is an unexpected link between them which goes far beyond the parallels of their sisterhoods.

I totally adored the first half on Annabel Lyon’s novel. Showing four young women emancipating themselves, developing personalities and ideas of who they want to be and how they want to live their life was wonderful to read. Even though the parallels show quite from the start, they are two quite unique sets of siblings which do have complicated but nevertheless deep bonds. Especially when Saskia and Sara come to the critical points in their sisters’ lives, they themselves are hit to the core, too, and have to make far-going decisions which also deeply impact their own lives. Throughout the novel, we see a great elaboration of characters with very authentic nuances and facets.

The second half did not convince me that much which, I assume, was mainly due to the fact that the central aspect of the relationships between the sisters was lost by then. Even though here the link between the two pairs was established and some secrets revealed, I found it lacked a bit of depths.

I found the title quite interestingly chosen, very often, “consent” is immediately associated with relationships and intercourse, but in the novel, however, also other aspects, e.g. to what extent the sisters approve of each other’s choices and decisions is explored. Especially Saskia investigates her sister’s life and by walking in her shoes, detects new sides of herself. ( )
  miss.mesmerized | Jan 28, 2021 |
I remember Annabel Lyon for her 2009 book The Golden Mean which I enjoyed very much. When I heard about another of her novels being published this fall, I requested an advance reading copy from the publisher.

This book focuses on two pairs of sisters. Sara and Matti are first introduced. Sara is an academic who has a love for fine wines, designer clothing, and expensive perfumes; she will spend a fortune on a dress. Her sister Matti is affectionate and trusting. Because Matti is developmentally challenged, Sara eventually becomes Matti’s caregiver.

The second pair is Saskia and Jenny. Though twins, they are total opposites in terms of personality. Saskia is the serious, responsible, hard-working university student while Jenny is the glamourous interior designer whose life is dominated by her self-centredness, impulsivity, and thrill-seeking. Because of an accident, Saskia has to make decisions for Jenny.

For almost three-quarters of the novel, chapters alternate between the two sets of sisters. In each tale, one sister, without consent, becomes responsible for the other. There are other superficial similarities like obsessions with clothing and perfume, but I wondered if the two narratives would ever actually intersect. Then tragedies bring them together in a shocking way.

The book examines how sisterly love can be entangled with resentment. Sara loves Matti but sees her as a burden who robs her “of the privacy Sara had sought so fiercely and protected for so long.” Sara admits to a friend, “’I wanted her at a distance’” and “The truth was that she was mean to Mattie, she was impatient, she was at times very, very cruel.” Likewise, Saskia loves Jenny but feels she can never escape her twin: “Jenny was her sun and moon: there was no escaping her. Saskia was ever alert to the ways her sister could hurt her, ever afraid of the ways Jenny might hurt herself.” Saskia thinks about the complicated truth of loving her sister: “Of course she and Jenny were closer to each other than anyone else. That closeness didn’t shield her from Jenny’s manipulations, her cruelty. Of course Saskia loved Jenny. That didn’t mean she wasn’t also frightened of her, and frightened for her . . . Jenny was the kind of person who could fly away or go up in flames at any moment. It was exhausting to be her counterweight, her rock, her extinguisher, her control.”

The novel also explores how grief can be entangled with guilt. Sara makes decisions for Matti without considering what might be best for her sister: “She had taken the sun and the moon from Matti.” A friend points out to Sara that she has not suffered because of having Matti in her life; he asks her sarcastically, “’Tell me all the opportunities you’ve had to turn down. Tell me all the jobs that were refused you. Tell me about your life of poverty and disenfranchisement and abuse. . . . You have money and education and power.’” Sara finds herself “chained in the masturbatorium of her own guilt, clawing at her own pinkest places.” Though she claims guilt will not consume her, Saskia says she is the one responsible for her sister’s fate: “’Me . . . I’m the one . . . I wanted her to know it was me. . . . Just like I want you to know it was me.’”

As the title indicates, consent is a theme. As a medical ethicist, Sara writes a paper, with Matti in mind, “on capacity and consent in adults with special needs” and Saskia, thinking about Jenny’s choices, writes a literary essay “on the implications of consent in Réage.” Neither Sara nor Saskia consents to the responsibilities thrust on them. Most significantly, the novel asks the reader to consider what s/he might consent to because of love.

I became impatient with parts of the book. Sara’s focus on perfumes and fashion and the purchase of a particular dress becomes tedious, as does Saskia’s later fixation with clothes. These sections have a purpose: “Clothes as costume and code.” It is noteworthy that Sara wastes an inheritance and what she spends on clothes “’could put a kid through college.’” Even Saskia asks, “’And I’m wearing my sister’s clothes, so whatever that says about me -.’” I just found that many of the descriptions were too detailed.

The novel’s best quality is its portrayal of relationships between sisters. I think anyone with a sister will acknowledge the realism of the complex sisterly relationships developed in this thought-provoking book.

Note: I received a digital galley from the publisher via NetGalley.

Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Sep 25, 2020 |
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