Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Their future is written in the stars . . .
Maia D'Apliése and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home, 'Atlantis' - a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva - having been told that their beloved father, the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt, has died. Maia and her sisters were all adopted by him as babies and, discovering he has already been buried at sea, each of them is handed a tantalising clue to their true heritage - a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of where her story began . . .
Eighty years earlier, in the Belle Epoque of Rio, 1927, Izabela Bonifacio's father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is working on a statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to complete his vision. Izabela - passionate and longing to see the world - convinces her father to allow her to accompany him and his family to Europe before she is married. There, at Paul Landowski's studio and in the heady, vibrant cafés of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.
In this sweeping epic tale of love and loss - the first in a unique, spellbinding series of seven books, based on the legends of the Seven Sisters star constellation - Lucinda Riley showcases her storytelling talent like never before.

The Seven Sisters is the first book in a new series of seven novels based on seven sisters and was published by Pan Macmillan in hardback, trade paperback and ebook on 6 November 2014.  I've been a huge fan of Lucinda Riley's writing for a long time now, and have reviewed some of her previous novels here on Random Things; The Girl on the Cliff (January 2012), The Light Behind the Window (July 2012) and The Midnight Rose (December 2013).  I was really excited to learn that Lucinda Riley had embarked on this ambitious project - seven novels in total, and all about the same family. I was hugely disappointed that I was unable to attend the event that she hosted to introduce her fans to the series, but delighted to have received a pre-publication copy of The Seven Sisters for review - my thanks to Lucinda, her PA Olivia and the team at Pan Macmillan.

The seven sisters of the title are the D'Apliese sisters; there are actually only six of them, so that's the first mystery of this story. These women were all adopted as babies and brought up by the incredibly wealthy Pa Salt, on a beautiful estate in Geneva, Switzerland.  Pa Salt has always been something of a mystery, a wealthy single man bringing up six beautiful adopted daughters, with no partner, just his trusted housekeeping staff to assist him. None of the girls really know how Pa Salt made his fortune, but each of them have had a happy and full life, they are loved and they love each other.

The sisters are summoned home when Pa Salt suddenly and unexpectedly dies. Just like his life, Pa's death and the arrangements after it have been precisely organised and each sister is left a letter and a clue to their true heritage. This first story is Maia, the eldest sister's story.

Maia discovers that her roots are in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and she travels there to the crumbling mansion that appears to be connected to her. It is in Rio that Maia's story really begins to come together and Lucinda Riley has cleverly weaved Maia's modern day story together with that of her great-grandmother Izabela Bonafacio.  Also woven through this incredible novel is the story of how the statue of Christ the Redeemer was constructed, first in pieces in Paris, and then transported by boat to Rio where it was built piece by piece on top of the Corcovado mountain.

The two cities; Paris and Rio are exquisitely drawn, the contrast between these two places is amazing, yet both of them are tantalising, and reading about them made me want to visit both of them. Izabel's time spent in the Montmarte area of Paris, populated by the bohemian artist community comes alive on the pages, with famous and familiar names taking centre stage. The contrast of Rio - the old, the new, the wealth, the poverty is exceptionally well done too.

Maia and Izabela's stories are strikingly similar, with a theme of love and loss running through them both, and as Maia discovers more about her birth family history, she also realises more about herself, finally admitting to herself that some secrets can never be kept forever, and that she does not have to pay for one mistake for the rest of her life.

The Seven Sisters is moving and absorbing, and I was absolutely transfixed by it. Please, don't be put off by the length of the book, it's over 600 pages, but I can assure you that these pages fly by and before you know it you will be at the end of the story and wishing so much that you had the next instalment ready to read next. Lucinda Riley is incredibly talented, her storytelling is precise and thrilling, she artfully combines the modern day story with events from history and has created something incredibly special. I'm desperate to read the next in the series.

My friend and fellow blogger Anne has also reviewed The Seven Sisters, you can check out her review on her blog Being Anne.

Author's Note: The Seven Sisters series is loosely based on the mythology of The Seven Sisters of The Pleiades, the well-known star cluster in the famous belt of Orion. From the Mayans to the Greeks to the Aborigines, The Seven Sisters stars are noted in inscriptions and in verse. Sailors have used them as guiding lights for thousands of years and even a Japanese brand of car, Subaru is named after the six sisters....
Many of the names in the series are anagrams for the characters that populate the legends, with relevant allegorical phrases used throughout, but it is not important to know anything about these to enjoy the books. However, if you are interested in reading more about Pa Salt, Maia and her sisters, then please visit www.thesevensistersseries.com, where the many legends and stories are revealed.

Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland and travelled extensively during her childhood, particularly to the Far East. Moving to London, she became an actress, working in film, theatre and television. At twenty-four, she wrote her first novel based on her experiences as an actress. Then went on to write seven further novels that have been translated into fourteen languages.

For more information about Lucinda Riley and her books, visit her website www.lucindariley.com, visit her Facebook Author Page, follow her on Twitter @lucindariley

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