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Pub Date 13 Aug 2020 | Archive Date 31 Oct 2020
Vintage, Jonathan Cape

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The electrifying new novel from the Booker shortlisted author of Everything Under.

‘A short sharp explosion of a gothic thriller whose tension ratchets up and up to an ending of extraordinary lyricism and virtuosity’ Observer, Fiction to Watch Out For in 2020

Something unspeakable has happened to sisters July and September.

Desperate for a fresh start, their mother Sheela moves them across the country to an old family house that has a troubled life of its own. Noises come from behind the walls. Lights flicker of their own accord. Sleep feels impossible, dreams are endless.

In their new, unsettling surroundings, July finds that the fierce bond she’s always had with September – forged with a blood promise when they were children – is beginning to change in ways she cannot understand.

Taut, transfixing and profoundly moving, Sisters explodes with the fury and joy of adolescence. It is a story of sibling love and sibling envy to rival Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. With Sisters, Daisy Johnson confirms her standing among the most inventive and exciting young writers at work today.


The electrifying new novel from the Booker shortlisted author of Everything Under.


Advance Praise

‘A beautiful, burning, disquieting marvel.’ Megan Hunter

‘Daisy Johnson is an enchantress who can turn the day into night and back again in a sentence. I love her prose so much, and this book was the sibling love-and-horror story of my dreams and nightmares. I can't wait to read it again, with September inside me, illuminating the haunted spandrels of Settle House.’ Karen Russell


‘A taut, disturbing, and brilliantly written psychological drama of the first order. You'll read for the quality of the prose, but also the amazing depth of characterization and mystery. Another great book from one of our finest writers.’ Jeff VanderMeer 

‘This is a book that makes you remember why you first fell in love with reading. I was haunted by it. Utterly unique.’ Evie Wyld

‘A blistering read. An exquisitely rendered exploration of sibling love and rivalry that rattles the core.’ Irenosen Okojie

Sisters is brilliant. Bold and tender. There is a physicality to its spell, muttered sometimes, sometimes screamed . . . We need to stop talking about Daisy Johnson as a young writer. She is a profound writer. Nothing she writes has any charming naivety of youth. She knows how things work and she has the talent and the respect for the talent to be careful and powerful with the way she writes. Far older writers, some of whom are too often applauded, never graduate to that.’ Cynan Jones

Sisters has a hot, dark energy that thrums beneath the language like blood. Daisy Johnson’s portrayal of female relationships is sticky, close and true. It will seep into your skin and linger in your bones.’ Jessica Andrews

‘Johnson’s Sisters is haunted in the fullest sense; its very sentences governed by a sinister, spectral force. This is a novel we don’t so much read as wade through with our hands outstretched and our eyes clamped shut, holding our breath 'til morning.’ Sue Rainsford

‘A beautiful, burning, disquieting marvel.’ Megan Hunter

‘Daisy Johnson is an enchantress who can turn the day into night and back again in a sentence. I love her prose so much, and this book was the...

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Featured Reviews

Sisters September and July are moved cross country with their mother to an old family home after an incident, the details of which are unclear. The book focuses on the girls’ intense relationship while slowly revealing details about what happened before they moved. I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot as I think the slow reveal of the story is part of the book’s appeal.
Daisy Johnson writes in such a poetic and lyrical way that draws you in. Sisters is very similar to Everything Under but, for me, packs more of a punch. The book is an entrancing read brought together with fascinating characters in the two sisters and a chilling setting in form of the old mysterious house.
The comparisons to Shirley Jackson are well deserved. The story is compellingly eery with a stunning, haunting ending. Although a short novel, it’s a great story to dive into and get lost in. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the copy.

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July and September are sisters. They are also best of friends. Something sinister happened to them back in Oxford, but we don't quite know what. They move to an isolated house with their single mother. She happens to be depressed. There is a lot of love in this book, and not always necessarily of the good kind. But still a deep, felt love. I couldn't put it down.

This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. Daisy Johnson is a force to be reckoned with. After reading Everything Under, I wasn't sure she could top that phenomenal book. But I was wrong. The book might be short, but don't be fooled. It packs a lot in.

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Through Fen and Everything Under, Daisy Johnson has demonstrated herself to be one of the most exciting authors writing today, the youngest author to be short listed for the Man Booker Prize. Sisters has solidified this reputation.

Sisters tells the story of July and September who are completely inseparable. September insists they share birthdays, bikes, baths and just about everything else. September is a domineering, menacing figure while July is the mild sibling. They live with their mother, a children's author while their father died when they were young. One day, the family must move suddenly due to reasons we don't discover until late in the book. I don't want to give anymore of the plot away as this was one of the most thrilling reading experiences I can ever remember having and you must discover it for yourself.

Sisters is dripping with menace. Every line has the vague undertone of threat and danger. The relationship between September and July is perhaps one of the most complex relationships ever portrayed in a book. Their love is deep and meaningful but September can be vindictive, cruel and manipulative when she wants to be. She often makes July do things she doesn't want to do. This is just one example of the tools Daisy Johnson utilises to make sure the reader is never sure of where they stand. It leaves you feeling so unsettled. Not many books cause me to feel fear but this was a rare exception.

The ending of this story is beautifully executed. I was certain I knew where the story was going, how it was going to end, but Johnson pulls the rug from under you again and again. I am reticent to call the ending of this story a twist because that cheapens what is a beautifully constructed narrative arc, building to a wonderful crescendo. The ending is spectacular.

This is a book I am going to be buying for and lending to everyone I know for a long time to come. I adored it from start to finish and has confirmed for me that Daisy Johnson is one of the most talented authors writing today. Do not miss out on this book.

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Sisters is a razor sharp mystery story. Deeply depressed Sheela, a children's author, has moved her family to a remote coastal cottage. Something really bad has happened at the school of her daughter's July and September. It feels like a ghost story. The house seems alive, and is haunted with the memories of those who used to live there. Sheela rarely ventures out of her room, and the kids fend for themselves. The nature of reality seems porous. September and July are dark and light. September has a pull on July that is really unhealthy and threatens her wellbeing. The feeling of dread builds to a revelatory and shocking ending.

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I love Daisy Johnson's work. And this is her best yet. The relationship between September & July is beautifully described. The Gothic atmosphere is note perfect & the tension is almost unbearable. It's a book to read in one sitting & then start over again immediately. I LOVED it & will tell everyone about it.

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Daisy Johnson delivers another masterfully vivid, ominous book. Personally I seem to have been on a run of reading about small families escaping to small houses far away from anywhere, with some creeping dread sitting at the heart of them. They're my kind of book, which means *this* is absolutely my kind of book. I'm wary of saying anything more specific than this, because I rather think the less you know, going in, the better. So much so than I've deleted my initial response which was a sort of list of references along the lines of 'if you like X you'll like....!'

Johnson manages to write her characters and their situation in such a way that the reader find themselves abruptly caught in the current of their story and unable to break free. She pulls in threads of foreboding, hints at disquiet in some cases (the mother, her history, the careful building of a domestic past she has run back to, in order to escape it), and sets up outright chills in others. The whole feels inevitable - towards the end in particular, as the pieces begin to click into place, as the red herrings fall away - but even so there's always, always the sense that you'll be wrongfooted in a way that makes perfect sense to the story. The relationship between July and September, and the amorphous edges of their identities, mean that as readers we can trust nothing we are told, and we can assume nothing.

This wavering identity and unnamed dread seem to be a particular trope of Johnson's, and she always does it well and I enjoy it hugely.

Anyway - I don't want to say more for fear of spoilers. Just that if you pick up this book expecting more of the excellence that was 'Fen' and 'Everything Under' you will not be disappointed. Nor will you be bored. Johnson is still evolving as a writer, certainly not a one-trick pony, and 'Sisters' is similar enough and different enough to her earlier work to keep me reading.

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A beautifully written, profound and significant narrative from the mighty Johnson. ‘Sisters’ is so powerful in its evocation of sibling connection, and the eerie unpredictability of mind and space. It is compact and thrilling, and I wolfed it down. It is another wonderful novel from a hugely talented young writer.

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This tells the story of sisters, July and September. July is 10 months younger than September but they do everything together and are inseparable. Their mother is a distant character who they have little contact with even though they live with her. September is the more dominant sister and makes July do things that she doesn't really want to do. September has quite a cruel streak to her and often forces July to hurt herself as part of the games that they play, yet July would go to the ends of the earth for September. Overriding this closeness is an event that happened at school that has bought the girls and their mum to the Settle house, a desolate, unloved, bleak home owned by their Aunt Ursa and rented to them.

I can't say much more as it will spoil the story, but what I will say is that the end twist I was only just about ahead of, and even then it had only been a passing thought. The writing style I found tricky to get my head around to start with as it consisted of short sentences that felt disjointed but I see it was a deliberate writing choice to demonstrate how the characters feel. The elements of gothic fiction in this novel are everywhere and at times I felt like I was reading Du Maurier's 'Rebecca' - all the elements are there .

Once I got hooked into this book I didn't stop reading it and couldn't put it down - it's the first book I have finished in two days in years! Enjoy!!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Long sentences interrupted by dialogue without speech marks, makes the tale of two sisters seem like a lyric sang by an untiring child. September and July are inseparable and their mother distant. After an incident at the girls’ school, the family leaves Oxford for Settle House, situated at the coast in North York Moors.

The strong vivid images evoked by the sensuous language will leave you drunk with emotion as you read through July’s and her mum Sheela’s account of trying to settle into a new environment. They retell the present and the past and the result is eery and disturbing. ‘Sisters’ shows the powerful grip of human connection will often leave scars when severed and will make you wonder what you have just read long after you finish the last page. It’s wonderful and memorable.

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I thought this was a fantastic portrayal of the smothering closeness of family. With a build up of tension throughout its an unsettling read but a complete page turner. Five stars.

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An eerie glimpse into the lives of haunted people, SISTERS is compelling and beautiful.

Born just ten months apart, July and September are as close as twins, never needing anyone but each other. When their single mother moves them to Settle House, a palpable unease slowly emerges, as do a series of unsettling revelations that will keep you reading until the very end.

Multi-faceted in theme and style, SISTERS creeps upon you and is completely absorbing.

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Just having finished Fen I was delighted to see that Sisters was up for request on NetGalley.

I loved Daisy Johnson's writing style in Fen, the giver of secrets and revealer of ancient mythologies. This continues in Sisters, on the surface a story of an intense sibling relationship and of modern calamities.

September is the oldest of the two sisters, with July coming along less than a year after. September is the dominant personality in the family, July follows on.

September is the builder of tales, mythologies, and games. This leads to some very dark places that July has little choice but to follow.

Exiled to Yorkshire, to Settle House on the coast after an unexplained incident the darkness and claustrophobia of the house and the memories it invokes (it was their father's house) twists and becomes part of the revelations of that incident.

As you tumble through the story you get caught up in the feverish telling of stories, of the mixing of narratives, of being in someones skin and behind their eyes.

Promises are made to be kept and the conclusion brings that around so frighteningly.

Absolutely stunning work, if I was you I would preorder this ready for July and dive in as soon as you get it.

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July and September are sisters, born 10 months apart but totally inseperable. They have blocked out their depressed mother who seems to avoid contact with them and have their own language, rituals and life seperate from the rest of society. Something very bad has happened in their school in Oxford and their mother moves them up north to the coast to the sanctuary of a rather creepy house belonging to their dead father's sister. The narrative was a bit difficult to navigate at first as he story is told through July's eyes, then third person (almost as if the house is speaking), the mother and then July again. Through this we get an insight into what has been happening. There are some twists in the plot so I won't spoiler. I was really drawn into this book, so if you struggle perservere, it is worth it. I think the co dependent relationship between the sisters is really well described, how the dominant September rules July and how disaster might strike if July follows her own path. vaguely meancing and sinister with some powerful writing that captures the "outsider" feelings of youth.

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Sisters September and July, along with their mother Sheela have moved to Settle House near the cost of the North York Moors, following an incident in Oxford.

The relationship between the sisters is at the focal point of the story. Inseparable to the extent that they isolate themselves from making new friends, and even their mother. September is very much the dominant older sister whose influence over July appears an abusive one. Playing games like, ‘Hide and Seek’ and ‘September Says’, where July carries out various tasks, one’s that at times inflict pain on herself and September. July questions Septembers motives, but certainly looks up to her sister and loves her unconditionally.

Sheela who shares her perspective in part two, appears broken and isolated from her family. The destruction of her relationship with her daughters father, and the isolation from September and July. She is reminiscent of a time when the girls were younger and they were more of a trip than a duo.

The novel concludes with a powerful and unexpected surprise, which to an extent left me feeling almost content with how some of the characters are left. Although in many ways upsetting, it seemed as if the gloom had been almost lifted from their lives.

This books is phenomenal! I haven’t been absorbed by a book like this for years. Daisy Johnson’s writing very much reminds me of Shirley Jackson’s work and the haunting tension both authors seem to master, to make their stories unsettling, dark, in some ways relatable and yet addictive. I now want to read Everything Under by Johnson, and hope for more works such as this!

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Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

'Sisters' is a difficult novel to categorise and an even more difficult one to precis without giving way some dreaded spoilers. There is the twist at the end, of course, but this is not the essence of the book. Rather, the story is a powerful psychodrama about an extreme, co-dependent relationship between sisters. It is also about love in all its myriad forms. I am not talking about love that is necessarily a positive expression of feelings, but a distorted form of love that threatens the very integrity of individual identity. If this is what Daisy Johnson has tried to convey in her sumptuous narrative, then she has indeed done a masterful job. As the novel progresses, the thin, almost gossamer-like thread that separates July and September as distinct persons, vanishes entirely. This is almost a cannibalistic relationship, with September the voracious eater of souls, and July her willing victim. The imagery in Johnsons lyrical, yet earthly prose, is evocative of the visceral limits of human bodies when the psychological limits of the individual has already been conquered. Contextualised within a dreamlike atmosphere, where the intrusions of modern life form a jarring juxtaposition, this is a novel of contrasts, fragmentation, and eventually all consuming, almost diabolical unity, that is co-dependency taken to extremes. I could say more, but I won't. Read this for yourself, and savour every page. Daisy Johnson is a born storyteller, with 'Sisters' an apt exemplar of her prodigious talent.

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Wow. This tiny, punchy, head-messy book about sisters and growing up and trauma is stunning. I read it in the bath in one go and it was a wild ride. I love Johnson's writing, there's something magical and deeply freaky about it and I would read anything she would like to write. This one reminds me of her short story collection which is one of the best things I've ever read. I give it all the stars out of however many stars there are.

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This excellent novel is the story of sisters September and July and their mother Sheela. The girls are so entwined it’s hard to know where one starts and the other ends. Following an incident in Oxford they go to Settle House near the coast of the North York Moors and what happens there is emotional, powerful and full of intriguing questions. The story is principally told by the two sisters.

This story is beautifully written and full of atmosphere provided mostly by the house. To Sheela the house is a living organism as it’s somewhat creaky, it has cracks and flaws which sums up her disastrous relationship with the girls father Peter who died several years ago. The girls personalities come across strongly, September is disruptive and dominant but she fills the gaps in Julys more fearful personality with the two making a whole. It’s like the girls are pieces of a jigsaw that fit together and conjoin. The girls are both outsiders but it’s bothers September less and she copes better than July.

There are many themes in this story - there’s destruction which is symbolised by Sheela and Peter’s relationship; there’s isolation which is what happens to the girls at school but also both girls isolate Sheela as they don’t need her like they need each other. There’s control - September of July and their mother and there’s also grief and sadness. The end is extremely overwhelming in its power and it’s also unexpected.

Overall, I love this beautiful and very different story. At times it’s a bit weird and you don’t see the big picture until the end which I really like. The cover is stunning and a terrific reflection of the story. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for the ARC.

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I wasn’t initially taken by this novel, but of course I got drawn in and ended up devastated by it. Somewhere between a psychological thriller and a first-person bildungsroman, Sisters builds on Johnson’s very particular style despite having very different source material from her first two books, Fen (which I haven’t actually read yet but desperately want to!) and Everything Under (which I loved). Despite being a big fan of first-person narrative, I have to say that the my favourite bits were Sheela’s third-person sections, which helped to ground the novel in some sort of reality away from the insular world of the eponymous sisters. I’m excited to see this novel do well when it comes out later in the year, as I’m sure it’ll make it on to shortlists and all of that.

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This is one of those books which is really hard to review without saying too much!

The obvious comparison is to Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle with a modern day update. Sisters tells the story of sister July and September, mostly from July's perspective. The book is haunting, filled with moments of eerie dread and suspense, but with no clear reason for why it feels so unnerving.

For the first part of the book, parents are largely absent and it starts to move a bit into a "girls gone wild" trope which I love, but then as the book progresses you get the perspective of the girls' mother Sheela, which adds a new layer to the narrative.

I read this over a couple of days because I couldn't put it down. The writing is wonderful, metaphorical while still being clear and readable, with some sentences that stop you in your tracks.

I really loved this. It is creepy and unsettling and ominous and exactly what I wanted to read right now.

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Everything I had hoped for - Johnson’s new novel is deeply atmospheric and stunningly written. Such a thrill to read the work of an author who just keeps raising the bar. Thank you for the review copy!

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Sisters, Daisy Johnson. 5/5

Something unspeakable has happened to sisters July & September. Desperate for a fresh start their mother Sheela moves them across the country to an old country house that has a troubled life of its own....
Noises come from behind the walls. Lights flicker of their own accord. Sleep feels impossible, dreams are endless. July finds the bond she forged in blood with September as kid begins to change.

I feel in love with Daisy Johnsons writing when I read Everything Under last year, getting the chance to read an ARC of Sisters thanks to #NetGalley, #RandomHouseUK and #DaisyJohnson is truly an honour.

Daisy Johnson is a searing, stunning, beautiful voice of a generation. Sisters is a haunting story, creeping under your skin, leaving a piece of itself behind.

I am fascinated with Johnsons use of language, I find her writing to be constantly poetic. Her study of character here is phenomenal, these women are cracked open onto this pages but with delicate observations.

Her ability to delve so deeply into relationships, sisterhood and motherhood and draw those together in this eerie gothic tale is excellent. This deserves awards. (As did Everything Under)

The intro and the finale, wow, and what a cover.

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I loved this book. I raced through it, completely gripped by the plot and characters. The book is scary and creepy in a subtle way; I almost couldn’t tell why I felt so unsettled as I read. The ending was chilling and the uneasiness I found on every page has lingered long after I closed the final page.

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Dark and claustrophobic, gripping and lingers long in the mind, I devoured this in one sitting. Loved it

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Absolutely loved this book!!! Would wholeheartedly recommend to all of my friends, and I cannot wait to read more from this author.

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A deep and dark and beautifully written book about two sisters, July and September, born just ten months apart and sharing a deep emotional bond. After an incident at the girls' school, they move away with their mother Sheela to an old family home near the sea. The house is decrepit, falling down, and as the days pass and girls become more entwined in each other, edges become blurred and boundaries shift. It's poetically written, but not flowery. The imagery stays with you for a long time. A really powerful piece of writing.

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I’ve loved all of Daisy Johnson’s works so far which makes her a favourite author of mine. Her latest, Sisters, is suffocating and claustrophobic. It was a horror house that I wanted to flee from, but could not look away. Just not yet. They say curiosity killed the cat and yes, this book nearly killed me.

In Sisters, we follow two sisters (no surprise there) born ten months apart, who are almost like twin souls. They move to a house that is ‘dirtyallover ‘and ‘bentoutofshape’—as creepy as it can get, because the house has a mind of its own with its gargles and groans. The bond between the girls is more noxious than sisterly. On one hand the elder sister takes care of the younger in a motherly fashion—providing food, washing her up—but there’s a kind-of Simon Says game where you have to obey everything the leader says. Johnson’s prowess as an inventive and skilled writer shines through the novel—Bulb clickclick(s), blood goes boom boom boom and movement is judder judder judder. You’ll find yourself longing to look away, but then you just can’t.

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There is a suffocating atmosphere from the very start of this book, as Mother Sheela and daughters September and July are seen moving from an unspecified incident near their home in Oxford to a country house belonging to extended family.

Claustrophobic relationships and an increasing feeling of tension are explored and generate genuine horror as the story unfolds.

Dealing with fundamental questions of identity and family in vivid detail, the powerful narrative pulls you along, wide-eyed, all the way to a very unsettling conclusion.

A fascinating read, this is a book that holds onto you and forces you not to look away - fabulous.

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Darker than anything Daisy Johnson has written before, Sisters is a haunting and unsettling tale of two inseparable sisters growing up together in a coming-of-age like an exorcism.

Similar words have been used to describe Unica Zürn’s 1969 novella Dark Spring and both books are similarly shocking in their depiction of childhood depression and deep-seated trauma.

The sisters, July and older-by-10-months September, escaped their home in Oxford with their mother following an incident at their school when the girls are in their late teens, returning to a rundown house on the coast of the North York Moors with a family history. The book is told mostly from July’s perspective and we unravel incidents from their past and what led to the shock event at their school in the present.

Lines are consistently blurred between what’s reality and fiction, becoming increasingly smudged as the story unfolds, and we’re never quite clear what on whose head we are inside.

There are echos of Andres Barba’s Such Small Hands, a book that deals with childhood cruelty and questions morality at such a young age. Both books lead us somewhere increasingly dark but their revelations are very different.

One is also reminded of Stephen King, but not because of the language. King writes thrillers and uses quite direct fast-paced language. Johnson is far more poetic. But there is a sense and images, too. The first image that came to my mind in the opening pages describing the sister’s almost telepathic connection was the two sisters from King’s The Shining; while it struck me as a rather arbitrary connection to make, it became somewhat more cemented later on when September and July go trick-or-treating dressed as those same, murdered sisters.

The horror is very much of a psychological nature, bringing to mind the final comparison I will make: Shirley Jackson. But Sisters has its shocking moments too and body horror that will make you wince.

I’ll be fascinated to discover how Sisters does at this year’s Booker Prize. I hope Johnson continues in this direction - one that’s far from new for her, but one that’s closer to horror than she’s ever gone in before. You’ll struggle to find a better literary horror novel this year.

Full review forthcoming on

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Sisters follows the story of July and September. There are, of course, other people in this take but in each others lives these people are mere distractions. It is a relationship that is so intense there is little room for others.

The story surrounds the girls and their mother trying to overcome an incident which happened to them in Oxford, the details of which are revealed to us like a dripping tap throughout the novel

This book is everything I want in a book. Brilliantly written prose, characters that are so life like and well described that you think you can understand how they will act and think, only to then surprise you in a way that is just so life like. I would agree it is reminiscent of Shirley Jackson as the tale is both all encompassing and perfectly sparse. Achingly beautiful and chilling in equal measure, it is a tale that will live on in my heart and my dreams for a very long time.

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Daisy Johnson is a wonderful writer - her sentences are so perfectly formed that you can enjoy the book on that basis alone. Fortunately, the book is also full of great moments, a rich plot, and terrific characters. Read this now.

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Sisters is a beautifully written portrayal of two sisters and their dysfunctional relationship within their family. Johnson manages to write in a way that's lyrical with some exceptional turns of phrase, while still maintaining a story that keeps you turning the pages. The story is unsettling, engaging and makes for an excellent read.

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