Monday, January 22, 2018

Brothers and Sisters: What Makes Us Love Them or Loathe Them?: Guest Post by Jane Corry

Jane Corry is the author of the bestselling My Husband's Wife, and Blood Sisters, to be published in the U.S this Spring by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking. She has spent time as the writer-in-residence of a high-security prison for men--an experience that helped inspire My Husband's Wife, her bestselling debut thriller. Blood Sisters is her second thriller.


Sibling rivalry is one of those academic-sounding phrases that hides a multitude of sins. But if you've grown up with a brother or sister who is constantly vying for attention and will stop at nothing to get ahead in the parental approval stakes, you'll know how painful this can be.

When I told my little sister (seven years younger and three inches taller) that my new book was going to be called Blood Sisters, she flashed me a suspicious look. “I hope it's not about me!”

It's not. But I couldn't have written it without her. Only siblings know what it's really like to go through life with that extraordinary mix of love, distrust, vulnerability, anger, hate and loyalty.

The funny thing is that these qualities are often mirrored in each other. “Don't be so patronizing,” my sister said to me the other day. What? She's the one who's patronizing me. Isn't she?

When we were growing up, we had little in common, partly because of the age difference. (Rather like my characters in Blood Sisters.) But when our mother died in her fifties, we became closer. Even now, thirty years in, whenever my sister and I have a fall-out, we make up because we know Mummy would want that. Sometimes this means “eating humble pie,” as we English call it. In other words, swallowing our pride.

“There's no way I'm doing that,” declared a friend who fell out with her sister over an inheritance dispute ten years ago and hasn't spoken to her sister since. Apparently money is one of the most common reasons for sibling estrangement, along with arguments over caring for elderly parents and dislike of each other's partners.

Another friend whose parents are both dead has a long-running “friendly feud” with her brother over a much-coveted, valuable collection of silver cigar boxes that was left to both of them. The two are friendly enough to have each other's door keys in case of emergency, however, as soon as one goes away on holiday, the other lets him/herself in to reclaim the boxes. This leads to a heated dispute on the absentee's return. It also caused extreme embarrassment recently for the brother's house-sitter who hadn't been forewarned!

But it's the siblings who grow up without knowing each other who really intrigue me. What a delicious mystery! I particularly love stories about brothers and sisters , separated at birth, who end up living on the same street or working in the same place without knowing. If you put this in a plot, the editor might say it was too much of a coincidence, yet it does happen.

Once, as a journalist, I interviewed a brother and sister who, without knowing they were related, fell in love. The truth only came out when they introduced each other to the rest of the family shortly before the wedding. “We're not giving each other up,” they declared. Although the marriage didn't go ahead, they slipped away quietly and lived a life of seclusion where no one else knew their history. (My interview retained their anonymity.)

But it made me wonder. Why is it that some siblings are as close as gloves while others loathe each other? I recently wrote a piece for a British newspaper on this and interviewed various psychologists. “Often it comes down to parental attitudes,” said one. “Some parents consciously or unconsciously favor one child. This naturally leads to resentment and superiority.”

However, there are also lots of us who try hard to be “fair” to our offspring. Even though my three are grown, they still love to play the Who do you love best game. My answer is that I love them all the same. And it's true--at least in terms of quantity--but I also love them each for different reasons. And there lies another mystery. How is it that siblings can be so different in terms of temperament and looks when they share the same parent? Or do they? Nature has a wicked habit of outing the mysterious truth even without a DNA test!

Then again, my sister and I used to look nothing like each other when we were young. My mother used to call us Snow White (me) and Rose Red (her). I resemble my father and my sister, my mother. Yet as the years have gone by, I find my sister when I glance in the mirror. I'm still blonde and she's still dark but I catch her “look” in my own facial features. Is it possible that it was always there but that I'd chosen to ignore it? Another mystery...

The girls in my new novel Blood Sisters are all connected. Vanessa, Kitty and Alison are bound by ties which cannot easily be dissolved. You won't know the connection immediately--that's part of the mystery. But I promise you one thing: there are plenty of sibling secrets inside...



Robert Richmond said...

I shall put this book on my to purchase list.

Anne Louise Bannon said...

I get this one. There can also be a problem when a parent tolerates the abuse (verbal or otherwise) of one child toward the other. Sad, really. But one can move beyond it.