Harvill Secker, €20
'Blood Sisters' is a literary collaboration from two sisters who take inspiration from their early years growing up in Kenya. Barbara and Stephanie Keating have managed to create one fresh voice with twice the insight into relationships, which is amazing, considering that most sisters could not write a letter together without squabbles breaking out.
'Blood Sisters' opens on the eve of Kenyan independence from British colonial rule in 1957. Three convent girls, about to leave school and anxious about their unknown future, make a pact never to part.
Sarah Mackey goes to university in her native Ireland, Camilla Broughton-Smith becomes a successful model in London, and Hannah van der Beer stays in Kenya with her brother and struggles to keep the family farm that her Afrikaans forebears set up at the turn of the century.
Although the three want to stay friends, circumstances intervene. Distance brings misunderstandings that fester, and jealousy and discontent set in. Sarah does not enjoy her university experience. Feeling different from her classmates, she yearns to return to Kenya and suffers from unrequited love for Hannah's brother.
Camilla throws herself into the London scene, never letting anyone get close to her and drinking to cope with the lack of a bond with her loose cannon of a mother. The fact that Hannah's brother is mad about her, as most men are, does not matter a jot. Until she falls in love and discovers the pain of her own feelings not being returned.
Hannah's determination to stay on her family farm comes up against sinister events. What is the dark secret hanging over her dad's involvement against the Mau Mau movement, which fought colonial rule? Why has her father fled the farm and why are so many scary things happening and impeding their plans to build a safari holiday ranch?
This book is about friendship and how it wilts if it is not watered - but also how it can be revived as long as the bond is there and people are generous enough not to be petty.
A fat, juicy, escapist read, 'Blood Sisters' captures the intoxicating beauty of Kenya and the danger that pulls all three girls back.