The Half Sister by Catherine Chanter

The Half-Sister by Catherine ChanterCatherine Chanter’s The Well was one of those books I picked up at the library based purely on the cover and ended up really enjoying. Years later, the story and the characters have stayed with me – something that isn’t easy given the number of books I read.

Seeing Chanter’s new book on Net Galley then, it was an obvious choice to request it. I have to say, I expected great things. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe it’s my current reading mood, but unfortunately, The Half Sister hasn’t had the same impact on me.

At its core, it’s a good story. A young boy is orphaned and left with his half-aunt and uncle. He struggles to cope, more so because he know a secret about his aunt.  His aunt has so many secrets, they are driving her mad (literally it seems) and his uncle has baggage of his own, including both his parents dying when he was young, meaning he retreats from his wife and nephew just when they need him most.

Where the book falls down, at least for me, is how it’s told. The Half Sister wanders and rambles and uses ten words where one will do, making it overly long for me and meaning it lacked the punch it might have had with 100 less pages.  It also meant I wandered too. Or my mind did. I struggled to focus and often found myself wondering what was happening, having to re-read pages to try and figure things out.

I also found that, whilst I wanted to care about the boy – Mikey – I couldn’t. I wanted to feel anything – love or hate – for the aunt or uncle but I couldn’t do that either. None of them felt real to me, more characters used to express central ideas – that it’s possible to change your life at any point and sometimes it’s o.k. to forgive.  I totally agree with the sentiment.  I just wish I’d gotten there quicker.

I realise reading this back it is pretty negative and it isn’t all bad but it just wasn’t for me. Sorry!

Emma x

About the book…

When she was sixteen, Diana left her unhappy family and set out to make a new life. Twenty-five years later, she has arrived. Recently married to Edmund, there are just the two of them living at Wynhope, his family’s historic country home, both happy for the past to be locked away and for the future to be free from responsibility.

But when Diana hears that her mother has died, she impulsively asks estranged half-sister Valerie and her nine-year-old son to stay. The night of the funeral, fueled by wine and years of resentment, the sisters argue and a terrible accident occurs. The foundations of a well-ordered life start to crack and the lies begin to surface, one secret after another demanding a voice. And then there’s the boy, watching, waiting.

The Half Sister is a profound and haunting portrayal of those who are imprisoned by the past and by their struggle to find the words which will release them.

Publisher: Canongate Books
Publication date: 5th April, 2015
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Number of pages: 400
Rating: 3 out of 5


Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.  


  1. It’s a shame when the premise is strong and you really want to connect with the characters, but the writing simply doesn’t touch you… I hope your next book is more enjoyable and many thanks for a fairminded, well written review.


  2. With as many books as we read, we know that not every book is going to suit us. This one sounds like it just didn’t work for you. Might for someone else or might at a different time. On to the next one, right?


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