Wow, I picked this up in the book store after falling in love with the cover (shallow, I know) and the sound of the story. I’m glad I did. I’d never heard of Irish author Lucinda Riley before reading this novel.
I always have a soft spot for two separate yet linked narratives, one in the present and one in the past. The Seven Sisters didn’t disappoint.
This novel tells the story of Maia D’Apalies, who has recently lost her father and returns to her Lake Geneva home, alongside her sisters. Each has been adopted, and their father leaves each a clue as to their origins.
Maia’s clue takes her to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she pursues the story of Izabela Bonifacio, her great-grandmother, who was a wealthy and beautiful young woman in 1927. Despite his (recent) wealth, Izabela’s immigrant father longs for prestige, the kind that can only be gained through an ambitious marriage to an old family with the right connections. Izabela’s stunning beauty secures the affections of a young man from a suitably prestigious family, but Izabela longs for more.
Izabela’s pre-wedding travels take her to 1920s Paris, where she is heady with excitement amidst the bohemian, artistic crowd and the freedom afforded to young women. Hosted by the family of Heitor da Silva Costa, she follows his work on Christ the Redeemer, the monumental statue taking shape in Rio. Work undertaken in sculptor Paul Landowski’s studio puts her into contact with a handsome and passionate young sculptor, Laurent Brouilly, and the relationship that blossoms between them renders her Rio life even more suffocating than before.
There are good themes of duty and family loyalty thwarting romantic ideals, and how life in a foreign culture can widen your horizons, while simultaneously causing you to mourn the loss of a life you never would have imagined having the freedom to pursue. The descriptions of life in bohemian Montparnasse and the elite circles of 1920s Rio bring the story to life, and allow readers to feel they are beside Izabela in her adventures.
In comparison, Maia’s story is not as vivid, but the readers are still carried along as she discovers the life of vivacious Izabela.
All in all, a satisfying summer read, one that brings the reader along on a glamorous journey to turn of the 20th century Paris and Rio. A highly recommended summer read.