Maia D’Aplièse and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home – a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva – having been told that their beloved adoptive father, the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt, has died. Each of them is handed a tantalising clue to their true heritage – a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil…
Eighty years earlier, in the Belle Époque of Rio, 1927, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspiration for his daughter to marry into aristocracy. But Izabela longs for adventure, and convinces him to allow her to accompany the family of a renowned architect on a trip to Paris. In the heady, vibrant streets of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.
“Love knows not distance; It hath no continent; Its eyes are for the stars”
I really loved this book! Lucinda Riley captured my attention from the very beginning of the book with her beautiful writing, and drew me into the world of Maia D’Aplièse, who embarks on a life-changing journey to discover her true heritage and uncover the secrets of the past. At the same time, Maia is desperately trying to keep her own secrets hidden, but as she begins to dig up the events of her history, and as she draws closer to the Brazilian author Floriano Quintelas, she struggles to resist the pain of the past that is bubbling to the surface once more. Hers is a story of trust and fear.
Set in 1929, the story of Izabela Bonifacio, Maia’s great grandmother, is equally intriguing, if not more so. As the daughter of a wealthy businessman, who is obsessed with making his way into Rio’s elite society, Izabela is forced to yield to her father’s ambitions by marrying into aristocracy, thus to resist her own passionate nature and longing for freedom. But, as she travels to Paris ahead of her wedding, she is drawn to Montparnasse, the artistic hub of the city, and to the sculptor Laurent Brouilly. His unreserved and rebellious way of living fascinates her, and she soon begins to fall in love with him. However, her lack of freedom and independence forces Izabela to rely completely on her father and on her husband, who she does not love, for her welfare. As events unfold, she comes to understand that her choices have dire consequences, not just for her. Hers is a story of love and duty.
Overall, while reading this book, I was most struck by Riley’s beautiful writing style, which honestly made me feel like I was wrapped in a blanket of love. She breathes life into the story with her writing, allowing the reader to see the sights and hear the sounds of Geneva, Rio and Paris – where the story is set – and to feel the emotions of her characters. Her careful attention to detail and the myriad of different languages she uses – English, French and Portuguese – adds immense depth and beauty to the narrative. Most importantly, it’s pleasant and easy to read (an underrated quality, if you ask me). All in all, I am really looking forward to reading the second book in the series: ‘The Storm Sister‘…
“Never let fear decide your destiny”
When Maia and her sisters return to their childhood home in Geneva after the sudden death of their father, Pa Salt, they find that they have each been left a letter and a clue to their birthplace. Maia believes that the seven words that Pa Salt had left her describe her perfectly: ‘Never let fear decide your destiny’. For a long time, Maia has let fear guide her decisions and her life; in fact, her decision to travel to Rio is driven by the fear that the mistakes of her past will resurface and be revealed. However, as she learns more about her heritage, and the compelling story of Izabela Bonifacio, she comes to realise that her fear does not need to shape her identity if she does not let it. Instead she can choose to trust again.
“For every one bad apple, there are thousands more whose hearts are full of kindness”
“Maia, the beauty; Ally, the leader; Star, the peacemaker; CeCe, the pragmatist; Tiggy, the nurturer; and Electra, the fireball.”
One of the main themes that permeates this novel is the role of women. In her introduction, Riley states that she decided to base this series on the myth of The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades because she was drawn to the uniqueness and strength of each of the mythological sisters. Overall, she wants to celebrate the achievements of women, especially in the past, in her writing. Izabela’s character encapsulates the struggles of women to gain freedom and independence, as she is forced to enter into a loveless marriage for the sake of her father’s ambition and to suffer the loss of love and free will. By nature a passionate and strong-willed woman, Izabela feels the restrictions of Rio society strongly and longs to escape. Through her depiction of Izabela, Riley powerfully reminds us of the struggles that women faced (and do still face today), but she also celebrates the resilience and character of women in her portrayal of strong female protagonists.
“I wish that you will find love. It is the only thing in life that makes the pain of being alive bearable.”
Overall, this is a story about love. In The Seven Sisters, both Maia and Izabela’s journeys lead them to discover love, and in some cases, to suffer the loss of it. Love transforms the lives of the protagonists completely, so it is impossible not to feel the injustice and sadness of the loss of love that Izabela must endure. Whereas Izabela longs for love, Maia hides from it; but, as she uncovers more of the past, she learns to let love – rather than fear – into her life, and she discovers the amazing ability that love has for healing the regrets of her past.
Thank you for reading this review – if you made it this far in my ramblings, I congratulate you. I hope that you add this amazing book to your reading list and please do share your thoughts in the comments if you have read it already! Also, feel free to suggest any books that you think either I or my co-blogger Ariana should review next…