Book review: The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley
Best-selling novelist Lucinda Riley likes nothing better than to transport her readers to exotic foreign climes and jewelled backdrops… but now she’s reaching for the stars.
France’s Côte d’Azur, Switzerland, Manhattan, India in the heyday of the British Raj and the bustling back streets of Naples provided the breathtaking settings for novels like Hothouse Flower, The Girl on the Cliff, The Light Behind the Window, The Midnight Rose and The Italian Girl.
In the first of what promises to be a unique and deliciously escapist series of seven books, based on the legends of the Seven Sisters star constellation, Riley launches her most ambitious and exciting writing project to date as we head off to Lake Geneva, Rio de Janeiro and 1920s Paris for a thrilling story set against the building of Rio’s giant Christ the Redeemer statue.
Six adopted sisters – a seventh intriguingly absent in this first foray into the lives of the wealthy Swiss D’Aplièse family – must unravel the secrets of their past with just a handful of tantalising clues after learning that their billionaire father has died.
Their journeys of self-discovery look set to take them to all four corners of the world and into a labyrinth of seductive time-switch stories, the enchanting brand of novel writing which has made Riley one of the best women’s fiction authors on the market.
Maia D’Aplièse and her five younger sisters, all named after the Seven Sisters stars, were adopted as babies by the elusive Swiss billionaire they call ‘Pa Salt’ – because of his love of sailing – and brought from all over the world to live at Atlantis, his fabulous, secluded castle on the shores of Lake Geneva.
A seventh sister never appeared, with Pa Salt mysteriously explaining that he had ‘never found her.’ But now they are all young women and have gathered at Atlantis after being informed of their beloved father’s sudden death and burial at sea.
Pa Salt’s lawyer hands each of them a clue to their true heritage. Maia, the eldest, most beautiful daughter, is the ‘family touchstone,’ the only sister who is still living at Atlantis.
Armed with just a small coloured tile and a moonstone necklace, Maia heads across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and begins to put together the pieces of her personal history starting in Rio in 1927.
It is there we find 18-year-old Izabela ‘Bel’ Bonifacio whose father, an Italian immigrant, has grown rich out of the coffee trade and harbours ambitions for his daughter to marry into the aristocratic Aires Cabral family whose fortunes are rapidly dwindling.
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.
Bel, passionate, constrained and eager to see the world, is allowed to accompany Heitor and his family to Europe before her forthcoming wedding to Gustavo Aires Cabral in Rio. But in Paris, at renowned sculptor Paul Landowski’s studio and in the heady, vibrant cafés of Montparnasse, she falls for his ambitious assistant Laurent Brouilly.
For the first time in her eighteen years, she feels truly alive with Laurent and knows that things can never be the same again…
Riley is a born storyteller and The Seven Sisters, a 600-page blockbuster heralding the start of a thrilling new series, gives her a magnificent stage on which to display her talent for weaving together the past and the present.
Impressive research, historical detail, an amazing ability to evoke time and place, and sheer imaginative power underpin a sumptuous, sweeping saga full of romance, passion, mystery, heartbreak and epic locations.
The enchanting stories of Maia and Izabela, set against the construction of the towering Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, meld a vibrant fictional cast with some of the key players in the real-life design of this iconic landmark.
An epic start to an epic series…
(Pan, paperback, £7.99)