I have loved writing about sibling tension in my new novel, This Family of Things, and here are my favourite fictional siblings (in no particular order) whose stories I have read and reread for inspiration.
Laura and Mary Ingalls. My new book is set on a farm and as a child I loved the sense of place in the Little House books. Laura’s inability to play by the rules is always at odds with Mary’s perfection, but Half Pint is at home in the untamed woods and prairies.
The March girls in Little Women. ‘Don't laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragic romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under the sober gowns.’ Mrs March’s advice to her girls came to me when writing the character of Margaret Keegan. I have always loved Little Women and how Marmee creates space for each of her daughter’s personalities.
Scout and Jem Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Earnest and yet full of charm. Harper Lee depicts the ever-changing relationship between a tomboy sister and her brother who is four years older. They have both moved on by the end of this beautiful novel and their relationship can never be the same again.
The Famous Five. My older brothers and sister were Julian, Dick and Anne, while I would play the more rebellious George. Even our grumpy Jack Russell rose to the part of Timmy quite well.
The Flytes in Brideshead Revisited. It is no wonder the narrator of this wonderful novel fell in love with ‘an entire family’. The heady atmosphere of Brideshead is as seductive as the beautiful, spoilt and completely charming Sebastian and Julia.
The O’Hara girls in Gone with the Wind. When Scarlett steals her sister Suellen’s beau in the early pages it shows the reader just what she is capable of, but after the war only Scarlett has the grit and determination to save Tara – and her sisters – from starvation.
Holden and Phoebe in The Catcher in the Rye. Who can forget the scene when Holden creeps into Phoebe’s room at night and how her delight in seeing him evaporates as she realizes her adored older brother is in trouble once again?
The Bennets in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Jane try to protect each other, and it is Mr Darcy’s hand in scuppering Jane’s romance which leads to the much-loved scene where Elizabeth tells him exactly what she thinks of him.
The Dollangangers in Flowers in the Attic. Creepy, yes. Weird, most definitely. Addictive reading for fourteen-year-olds at a boarding school – Virginia Andrews knew exactly what she was doing.
The Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility. My favourite scene from this book is when Elinor is finally pushed too far by Marianne’s melodrama:
'Always resignation and acceptance. Always prudence and honour and duty. Elinor, where is your heart?’
‘Believe me, Marianne, had I not been bound to silence I could have provided proof enough of a broken heart, even for you.’
The ensuing explosion from Elinor is Jane Austen at her finest. And what sisters have never had a rip-roaring fight?