The Mistressclass
Michele Roberts
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The Mistressclass
Michele Roberts
304 pages
December 2004
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Sisters Catherine and Vinny are middle-aged writers living in London. Catherine is married to Adam, whose father, Robert, recently passed away after a long illness. Vinny is single, and while the sisters were closer in their younger years, they have grown apart and have a cordial, but distant relationship. The sisters have a strained relationship because they are involved in a love triangle, of sorts, involving Catherine’s husband, Adam. While Catherine is the more practical and attractive of the two sisters, Adam had a prior relationship with Vinny, the chubbier and less attractive of the two sisters, although Vinny has a more care-free, robust personality that Adam seems to prefer due to years of a long, somewhat stale marriage with Catherine.

The Mistressclass starts off in the present day and spans back in time to when the sisters were in their twenties and went to France to visit Adam, who was on holiday in France at his father’s house. Adam’s father, Robert, resides in the French countryside in an archaic and secluded house on many acres of overgrown land. Robert is an intriguing, eccentric character who tends to be abrasive toward his son but fawns over the two sisters, paying particular attention to Catherine. During this time, Vinny is dating Adam and relationship later develops between Adam and Catherine, which forms the eventual chasm between the two sisters.

Also lurking between the two sisters is a darker secret unbeknownst to Adam. When tragedy strikes, both women confront their individual betrayals in a new light. Interspersed throughout the novel and the contemporary story of Adam, Catherine and Vinny is a story of another set of sisters, the Bronte sisters, in the form of letters by Charlotte Bronte. Therefore, historical fiction and contemporary fiction are combined to create an intricate tale involving love and sisters.

While The Mistressclass is well-written and held my interest, this novel is lacking in “action.” The majority of the contemporary plot is wrapped up toward the end, and better pacing would have made the novel more interesting. However, Roberts is a talented writer and fans of contemporary fiction and historical fiction may enjoy this book.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Shannon Bigham, 2005
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