Published by Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: August 12th 2014
The Swineys are seven Irish sisters of unknown paternity growing up in a falling-down shack in a small town in Ireland in the late 1800s. They have no electricity, no indoor toilets, and so little food that a piece of bread may suffice for the day. What they do have is hair of extraordinary length in hues from white blond to deepest black. They also have a range of singing voices that gives the eldest sister, Darcy, the idea for their salvation. This is where The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Loveric begins.
The Harristown Sisters follows the girls from their early beginnings and their first show when, thanks to Darcy’s fertile mind, they close by cascading their copious locks onto the stage boards causing a frenzy of delight and jealousy that launches their careers. From that lowly church stage the girls began to be booked in real local theaters, ultimately making their way to a new life in Dublin. From that point on, the sisters rise and rise, from simply showing off their unbound hair—a provocative act for the times—to performing clever skits and songs, written by the middle sister, Manticory. They sign deals to have dolls made with hair just like theirs and to sell hair growth potions.
All of this is grand but the only sister with any power is the indomitable Darcy, who controls her sisters with intimidation and verbal threats. They receive an allowance from her but she keeps all contracts and money locked away and she is the only one to communicate with the increasing number of men with whom she does business. As one of them says, “She makes one long for the tender manners of Attila the Hun.” The other sisters are so cowed there is no thought of leaving the group or returning home, much less simply refusing to do an act that is becoming increasingly salacious as the girls become women.
Can all the hurt girls in the world add up to a single happy one?
Lovric does a marvelous job emulating the rhythm and slang of the Irish language, making The Harristown Sisters raucous reading. What begins as plausible fiction moves through operatic highs and lows and a fair bit of magical realism (Darcy’s physicality begins to mirror her black soul) before the novel winds down. Seven sisters and a career spanning decades is a lot of territory to cover but with Lovric’s imaginative touches, The Harristown Sisters is a lively Irish tale.
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Shannon @ River City Reading says
I love the modern fairly tale sound of this and that cover is just to DIE for…I remember seeing it a while back and thinking how great it was.
Shannon- it would be perfect winter reading because it is so over the top, even with a it of magical realism thrown in. Easy entertainment!
Leila @ Readers' Oasis says
I read this as well . . . and I agree, it’s lively entertainment! Sometimes it got a big much for me, but overall it was good read. I had not read Michelle Lovric before.
Absolutely agree! It was a bit over the top at times.
Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf says
I like how unique everything about this sounds! And you know I’m a sucker for magical realism. 🙂
Leah @ Books Speak Volumes says
I feel like I read somewhere that this is loosely based on a story from folklore? I love the kind of mythic sound of this novel, and I’m intrigued by the hints of magical realism. Sounds great!
Not even folklore, Leah, it’s true! They were the Sutherland sisters in the late 1800s. They joined Barnum & Bailey and over 36′ of hair between them. Can’t even imagine.
tanya (52 books or bust) says
The cover for this book is so great. Unfortunately the cover in the UK isn’t as great. I don’t think I will even bother putting it to the cover wars test.