Winner of Wales Book of the Year 2009 (English-language)
Grace and Tamar are sisters, in conflict but ultimately inseparable. From the moment of her difficult birth Tamar disrupts the previous calm of family life, a thorn in the flesh of the parents and of her sister, older by two years. Self-sufficient and untouched by attempts to socialize her or instil conventional ideas of morality, Tamar is a reckless risk-taker. But despite sibling rivalry erupting sometimes into violence, as they grow up Tamar gradually draws Grace into her anarchic world, their mother’s besotted preoccupation with their new baby brother strengthening their uneasy alliance. Each girl has to trace her own path between conformity to the socially accepted paradigm of a woman’s life and the pursuit of independence at all costs, before reaching acceptance of their own interdependence.
In her prize-winning first novel Deborah Kay Davies gradually unfolds the shifting narrative of the sisters’ lives and relationship through a series of discrete short stories. Like beads on a chain each has its own pattern but together each takes on a further significance as part of a complete design. Her unsparing analysis is applied not only to the sisters’ complex interactions but also to the mother’s increasing difficulty in communicating with them and with their father.
Combining a poet’s eye and ear for telling detail with compelling storytelling, Davies provides a startlingly vivid, unsentimental evocation of how strength and love can eventually be salvaged from a disfunctional family.
'Deborah Kay Davies has achieved something rare: a collection of short stories wherein each story is complete in its own right...but which also work together as a novella-length sequence.'
'Grace, Tamar and Laszlo the Beautiful is by turns moving, hilarious and terrifying, and often all three at once.'