Title: The Sun Sister
Author: Lucinda Riley
Published: November 12th 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary/Historical, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
To the outside world, Electra D’Aplièse seems to be the woman with everything: as one of the world’s top models, she is beautiful, rich and famous.
Yet beneath the veneer, and fuelled by the pressure of the life she leads, Electra’s already tenuous control over her state of mind has been rocked by the death of her father, Pa Salt, the elusive billionaire who adopted his six daughters from across the globe. Struggling to cope, she turns to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain, and as those around her fear for her health, Electra receives a letter from a complete stranger who claims to be her grandmother…
In 1939, Cecily Huntley-Morgan arrives in Kenya from New York to nurse a broken heart. Staying with her godmother, a member of the infamous Happy Valley set, on the shores of beautiful Lake Naivasha, she meets Bill Forsythe, a notorious bachelor and cattle farmer with close connections to the proud Maasai tribe. When disaster strikes and war is imminent, Cecily decides she has no choice but to accept Bill’s proposal. Moving up into the Wanjohi Valley, and with Bill away, Cecily finds herself isolated and alone. Until she discovers a new-born baby abandoned in the woods next to her farmhouse…
Sweeping from the frenetic atmosphere of Manhattan to the magnificent wide-open plains of Africa, The Sun Sister is the sixth instalment in Lucinda Riley’s multi-million selling epic series, The Seven Sisters.
‘The sun hung low in the still blue sky, casting a stream of golden light onto the strange-looking trees with flat tops.’
The journey of The Sun Sister, which represents Electra’s sojourn to uncover her lineage, forms the sixth issue in The Seven Sisters series, penned by Lucinda Riley. This rather tumultuous journey, which features a highly strung but enigmatic character, takes the reader from the plains of Kenya, through to the bustling streets of New York City. It is an absorbing chapter in this engrossing series, revealing pertinent details about the youngest sister and alluding to other interesting facts about this mysterious series.
The Sun Sister shares Electra D’Apliese’s story. It is about a woman of high privilege and power, who doesn’t necessarily know how to use it appropriately. As one of the world’s most recognised faces, Electra is a much sought after model. She moves in rich circles, flaunting her wealth and position. However, Electra is a deeply unhappy and unfilled person. Electra handles the pressure of fame with drugs, alcohol and a party lifestyle. The unexpected death of her adoptive father sends Electra spiraling out of control. Electra receives a big wake-up call when her grandmother contacts her, a relative she didn’t know existed. It sends shock waves through this troubled young woman. Electra deals with this issue the only way she can, through further abuse of drugs and alcohol. The results are tragic, and a stint in rehabilitation follows. Electra must summon all the strength she can to confront the past, in order to secure her future. This means Electra must let people into her life, namely her grandmother. The stories this family figure has to share will rock Electra’s world. Understanding Electra’s past involves make a leap back in time. Electra’s grandmother Stella recalls the story of her dear mother figure Cecily, a woman who bravely stood by her beliefs and love, while confronting racial prejudice, head-on. Within this story is the fight for freedom in Kenya and later, a lifesaving trip to New York, which seals Stella’s and Electra’s fate.
Before I began The Sun Sister, I was little apprehensive about a few things. First of all, I wasn’t sure if this book was going to represent the final book in the series (the conclusion provides this answer). I was also daunted by the sheer breadth of this book. Sitting in at over 800 pages, I was thinking, how on earth am I going to get through this? But I did, in just two days. Finally, my initial thoughts about the prime character in this book, Electra, had already been decided prior to reading this book. I decided that I simply didn’t like Electra, based on my previous experiences of her in past books of this series. I wasn’t looking forward to hearing her side of the story. However, I was definitely wrong on more than a few fronts. I raced through this book, to the point that I had no idea where the pages went, I was absolutely riveted. I also discovered that there will be another book in the series to come. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Electra’s journey, much more than I expected!
Electra initially appeared on the pages of The Sun Sister as the spoilt and privileged young woman I had encountered in previous issues of Lucinda Riley’s series. However, as the book established itself, I slowly began to feel sorry for Electra. She was clearly misunderstood, confused and lacked direction or a connection to anyone. I saw Electra’s substance abuse, alcoholism and loose relationships as a big call for help. Luckily, Electra begins to see the error of her ways and eventually she seeks help. These sequences of the book provide an excellent insight to the treatment of substance abuse, alcoholism, fame and self-harm. We receive a full glimpse into the rehabilitation process, which I found enlightening. I was surprised by how much Electra’s journey touched me.
On the flip side, when Electra is contacted by her grandmother, following her letter from Pa Salt, we travel back into the past. Through this thread we meet an influential figure by the name of Cecily Huntley-Morgan. I have to say, I adored Cecily and her accompanying story. I really loved being transported to the wilds of Africa and Kenya, a part of the world I have to admit that I am largely unfamiliar with. Cecily’s story delves into the complex world of civil war, land rights, colonialism, game hunting, racial tension, tribal warfare and the renowned Happy Valley social set. Riley brings this time period and colourful location to life. The wildlife and landscape bursts forth from the pages of The Sun Sister. I felt privileged to be transported to this time period and location.
Cecily’s journey as citizen of the United States sees her return to her home in New York and this is a pivotal decision that will weigh heavily on future generations. Through this segment of the story Riley tackles racial segregation, societal attitudes and the rise of the civil rights movement. It made for topical and fascinating reading. Linked to this is the appearance of Senator Barack Obama, who eventually rises as president. This aspect of The Sun Sister was incredibly moving. However, underneath these achievements was a look into the underclass, the struggling citizens of New York City, Harlem and Manhattan. Riley delves into substance abuse, drug dens, the AIDS crisis and homelessness. It is hard reading at times, but topical and timely. This aspect of the story tied in with Electra’s journey, with surprising results.
Riley’s characterisation extends well. We receive a full and detailed picture of Electra, her grandmother and key figure Cecily. We oversee the movements of vital characters in the Kenyan settings and the post war 1950s/60s based sequences in New York. Present day characters such as Electra’s new assistant, along with her love interests, play essential parts in the progression of The Sun Sister. Riley carefully weaves in the back stories of Electra’s sisters, family members and key staff of Atlantis in this installment, which appeared more visible compared to the previous issues in this series. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the series is now coming to a close. Riley is conscious of the need to make the links to the overall picture of this all-encompassing series.
A big revelation is made, a game changer, in the parting moments of this novel, which helps the reader begin the process of joining the final dots in this puzzling series together. Electra’s journey moved me and I think she made one of the biggest leaps in this journey, compared to her sisters. It made me smile when I saw Electra reach her full potential, believe in herself and realise her true calling in life. It was a touching experience. The Sun Sister is a very full, but meaningful novel, that signifies a vital piece in this rich family saga.
The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley was published on 12th November 2019 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Sun Sister, Lucinda Riley, visit here.
*I wish to thank Pan Macmillan for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.