For background on the series see my review of the first book.
In The Storm Sister we get to follow the second oldest sister, Ally, or Alcyone. She has two passions in life: sailing and music. At some point she discarded her musical education in favour of sailing, and as our story begins she makes her living as a professional sailor competing in regattas. Her love of sailing was something she shared with and maybe inherited from Pa Salt, and they spent a lot of time out on the lake together when Ally was growing up. Through her journey to discover her roots she also gradually finds her way back to her passion for music.
The book follows the same formula as the first one. We first get introduced to Ally and get a snapshot of her life before she hears about the death of Pa Salt. Then she reunites with the rest of the sisters at Atlantis for the memorial, and gets her clues to her past. The Atlantis part doesn’t get too repetitive even though I started this directly after finishing book number one. It is of course written from the perspective of a different character, and coloured by her thoughts and experiences. I actually enjoyed reading the parts of the story that intersects from a different perspective.
The narrative then alternates between present and past as Ally eventually decides to explore her roots. There’s a very tragic catalyst that starts Ally’s exploration into her past. I won’t say what it is to try and avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say I bawled my eyes out. I was riveted by the story though, and the tragic event only made me put down my book for a very short while so I could process it.
Ally’s clues about her past lead her to my home country: Norway. Which of course is fun. Though she spends most of her time in Bergen, which as J has learned (and is eager to bring up on any occasion where Bergen is mentioned), Bergen is not really Norway. I couldn’t find any English documentation on this, but “I’m not from Norway, I’m from Bergen” is a common “Bergensian” expression. Anyway, Ally goes to Bergen because her history ties her in some way to the famous Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, a Bergen native.
We have now arrived at the portion of this review where Sarah goes off on a tangent about Norwegian-related stuff that’s only slightly relevant to the story – skip to more relevant stuff by clicking here.
If you think you don’t know who Grieg is – you do. YouTube or Spotify “in the hall of the mountain king” or “morning mood” and you’ll realise I’m right. As a Norwegian living abroad I’m quite often asked about which famous Norwegian people someone may have heard of, and Grieg, Ibsen (who is also featured in this novel) and Munch are usually my go-tos. And I’ve had this conversation a few times too many:
Non-Norwegian person: Grieg? I don’t think I know who that is.
Me: *starts humming in the hall of the mountain king*
Non-Norwegian person: Ooooh, right I DO know that!
Although it was nice – especially for a woman in “exile” to read a book largely set in my home country, there were a few little nit-picky things that bothered me. A couple of times it’s emphasised that having red hair is the “typical Norwegian colouring”, though it’s actually more typical of my other “home” country: Ireland. Yes, I even looked up maps and statistics for redheads to make sure I was right and hadn’t just been underexposed to the typical Norwegian colouring in the 22 years or so I lived in Norway. I will let it slide since it’s a good story (not that having red hair has anything to do with it).
The other thing that I just found odd was how words like “dear” and “mother” and “father” were often left in Norwegian, while everything else was in English – both in letters and in dialogue. Now, I realise if I’m reading something starring a French person and they say “cherie” instead of “darling” or “dear”, that doesn’t bother me at all, but that’s because in my head they’re only saying the word “cherie” in French and everything else in English. Of course I realise now that that’s probably not the case / the writer’s intention in those other books either, they’re just doing the same thing that Lucinda Riley is doing here. It’s just now it’s weird because it’s my mother tongue. And it causes me to wonder what makes writers do this. It’s quite common practice. Like for instance when I read The Lost Time Accidents, it was habitually strewn with German words like “Schätzchen“. Is the writer trying to hammer us over the head with which country their story is set in? While it doesn’t actively bother me when it’s not my mother tongue, I also feel like it doesn’t add anything of literary or plot value.
Aaaand we’re back in.
I think I had a preference for the past story in this book, it just drew me in more. Though there’s plenty of drama in the first part of the Ally narrative, I guess I generally feel like there’s more going on in the past story. It revolves around the premiere of Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt, set to a musical score by Edvard Grieg. We follow two of the players in this performance as their lives intersect and a budding romance (with complications, naturally) begins.
There’s a lot of loss and misery in both the past and present threads. In general there seems to be a theme of death and complicated (often tragic) love stories running through this series. That shouldn’t be a deterrent though, as there’s also plenty of love, warmth and good stuff.
Another series theme is strong female characters. In the tales from the past they’re often struggling with what society or their parents want/expect from them versus following their own feelings or passions. At first I thought this was headed in the same direction as the past story from the first book; woman gives in to the wishes of her parents instead of following her own dreams, but was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t. I totally understand that in previous centuries there was – also in Europe – a stronger sense of filial duty, and I admire the sacrifices some of these women make because of this loyalty, respect, and ultimately love for their parents. But at the same time as I admire it, it also really bothers me. That being said, while our past story heroine Anna Landvik ultimately decides to follow her heart, her path is by no means easy.
Overall this was a very engaging read, with two great narratives – though as mentioned perhaps the past story was a little stronger. And again the amount of research that has gone into it is astounding (apart from the redhead thing ;-), and it shows.
Definitely a worthy follow-up, also giving us more insight into the D’Apliese family. And there’s another supposed Pa Salt sighting – is he really dead? I guess we’ll have to read on to find out what lies at the centre of this tangled web and who the mysterious Pa Salt really is.