Good morning readers! Today is the day for the blog tour! It’s Books Beyond The Story’s review for Lola Jaye’s new novel, “Orphan Sisters”.
A bit about the book
The story is set in 1950’s London. A Nigerian family immigrates to England for a new life with wonderful opportunities. The whole family is so full of hope for their future in England, even though they’re not made to feel welcome.
“No blacks, no dogs, no Irish”
The children, Lanre and Mayowa Cole, are immediately thrown into the deep end once they arrive in this strange and unfamiliar setting even having to shorten their names to Lana and May to sound more ‘English’. As much as their new surroundings take some getting used to, their loving home life with their doting parents is their solace. That is until, tragedy strikes the house leaving Lana and May heartbroken. A surprise birth and further tragedy means the girls (and the baby) end up in a miserable and woeful care home where they must survive the cruel world they’ve been thrown into, a lifetime away from the happy home they once knew. This is a story of heartache, tragedy and drama, but also that of survival, love, and the strength of family.
I have to say I have been a fan of Lola Jaye since I was 13 and read ‘By the time you read this’. Some of you may think that because I am a fan of the author, it bodes well with a review of her new book. However, I believe as my expectations was so high, it was really a question or not of whether the book lived up to my expectations. Well? It excelled them! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, believe me when I was hooked!
I read it on the train, the bus, with my lunch, in the evening, at 1 am in the morning when I was desperate to read ‘one more chapter’ (which turned into 4 or 5 more…)
It is safe to say I was addicted to this book and devoured its contents page by page.
The character of Lana is probably more complex than what meets the eye. I was immediately drawn to her and empathised with her character. I sometimes prefer books written in 1st person as you can often connect with them easier. And yet, although this book was written in 3rd person, I had no trouble with attaching myself to Lana throughout the book. Her natural ability to become emotionally connected with the horrific circumstances she has to endure strengthens her persona throughout the book. Some may think this is a weakness, however it means that she doesn’t bottle her problems up; if she is hurt, she will allow herself to feel hurt. She lets herself feel pain to then be able to let go when the time is right. May is the complete opposite and instead creates a harsh exterior to block out the world around her. I could relate to her love of books; an escapism into a different reality, one where she can be free. However by cutting ties with her feelings she has opened herself up to a life of loneliness, with or without Lana by her side.
The sisters could not be more different. I found this refreshing as you’re not tied to the same sort of character throughout the story. Lana and May are victims of circumstance experiencing harsh treatment and betrayal throughout their childhood and adolescence. However they are resourceful, resilient and intend to be respected in a divided world where they are not welcome as with their hardship, there is always hope.
The dynamics of Lana and May’s relationship throughout the novel changes regularly; although they are sisters, they deal with things differently each showing their affections and ideas in different ways. I do believe this shaped their views on the world and influenced their decisions later in the novel. Lana is desperate to have her family back together, however small or broken it may be. Forgiveness is her motto and love is in her heart. May decides that no family is better than a broken one. Her strong persona may fool a few but as a reader you now that she is still a scared and hurt little girl who has been betrayed and let down one too many times. Lana’s quest to keep the family together and May’s plight to forget their past drives a wedge between the sisters, yet both strive to protect one another in any way they can.
This book touches on a part of history I am sure most people would like to forget, but it’s an important part of the past and should be highlighted. I am sure the stories of Lana and May are not unusual; that of bullying, abuse, torment and racism. This book not only teaches the importance of family and overcoming ones past, but also heightens the kind of place the world was all those years ago. This story must have been researched a great deal and so I admire it even more. The writing style of Lola Jaye is unique and stunning, I cannot praise this book enough.
*SPOILERS AHEAD*: Go to section titled “RECOMMENDATION” if you don’t want to read the spoilers!
This is a section for some discussion points for those who have read the book and/or want to know more (but there are some major spoilers!)
- It was interesting how differently Lana and May handled the circumstances of their youth both before and during their time at John Adams. This I believe influenced their decisions later in the novel. Do other aspects of the novel also shape their decisions? If so, what and why?
- How do you think men were perceived in the novel? For example, the differences and similarities between Tayo, Clifton, Stan and Mark. For example-
- Tayo and Clifton are very much alike in some ways; good and caring people who only want the best for the ones they love. However both of them abandon Lana and May at one time or another even though it’s not their fault.
- What do you think would happen if there was a second book? For example, I’d hope that Lana, May and Tina would search for their extended family in Nigeria (and Lana/Lanre would cement her relationship with Clifton!)
- What was the significance of Tina’s Puffalump that May held onto for so long? (I really wish she hadn’t got rid of it but it serves a purpose for the story and for May’s/Eve’s personality.)
- This book reminded me a little of the book “Small Island” by Andrea Levy. (One of the characters is named Hortense, a happy coincidence that a character in “Orphan Sisters” has the same name!) For further reading I’d have a look into it (although in my opinion “Orphan Sisters” is an even better read!)
- Do you think the letter in the Epilogue would make you read the book differently if you were to read it again? (I do, especially part one)
- I liked how Lana became Lanre again at the end of the book, what other changes had the characters made to embrace their heritage and culture?
This book is a modern masterpiece with characters that will stay with you long after you’ve finished their story. Many times I was holding back tears whilst reading, both sad and happy. It was an incredibly moving novel I found thought-provoking and imaginative. A dramatically raw story concerning the bond between sisters and the strength of family. An outstanding book. Praise for Lola Jaye! I would recommend for anyone who likes historical fiction and dramas. I would also recommend to those who like authors such as Lesley Pearse and Katie Flynn but also to those who are interested in expanding their reading genre preferences. If you want to attempt anything new, please read this book. You will not be disappointed!
You can follow Lola Jaye on twitter CLICK HERE
Instagram CLICK HERE
And her website CLICK HERE
Here is where you can get your hands on a copy:
A HUGE thank you to Lola Jaye, Penguin Books UK, Penguin random house and Ebury Publishing for giving me a copy of “Orphan Sisters” to read and review.
As always, let me know your thoughts either by commenting on here, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, DM or email. I love hearing your ideas and discussion points!
Happy reading! Lx
The title for this blog post has significance, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why…
Ps, thanks to mum for assisting me with the feature image. I.e. digging out the old atlas, helping with lighting and letting me raid your antiques collection! A lot of effort is put into every aspect of Books Beyond The Story. Even if it means messing up the kitchen for book photos every now and again 😉
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.