The bond between sisters has always fascinated me. It’s at the heart of The Missing Girl and a lot of my other writing too. Yet I don’t have a sister myself. In fact, I was born as the youngest of five children and the only girl – the last attempt for a girl according to my mother.

Jenny Quintana by Alicia Clarke

Jenny Quintana by Alicia Clarke

When people know this, they tend to say: ‘I bet you were really spoiled.’ That wasn’t true at all. My father was quite strict with all of us. Yes, we had a good relationship and I was certainly his ‘little girl’, but he didn’t spoil me and as I became older, I think he found our changing relationship quite a challenge.

We grew up in a part of Chelmsford, Essex where there were plenty of places to explore. I was allowed to go out with my brothers, but my mum always told them they had to look out for me. And they did! They were kind and protective. I had a distinct relationship with each of them – and still do, but I was the only girl and the youngest, and they must have found me a bit of a nuisance tagging along. Often, I was left to amuse myself, on the swings, or on the green, but my brothers never disappeared completely. They were always there if I needed them.

Inevitably, I was left out of their more adventurous escapades – especially if they didn’t want our parents to find out what they were doing. They thought I’d tell tales. I never did! Still, they had their secrets and even though I wasn’t a lonely child, I played on my own a lot – acting things out with my teddies and dolls, or reading. I was quiet and shy and very close to my mum. Being the only two females in a male-dominated household, it gave us a wonderful connection.

As I got older, the differences showed more. I had a strong sense of justice. I remember furious arguments with me isolated and fighting my corner. My mum hated arguments and wisely kept away from them. I imagined what it would be like to have a sister by my side, giving me the female support I was missing.

Today I look at female friends who have sisters and wish I had their closeness. Don’t get me wrong – I’m close to my brothers and I wouldn’t change what I have. Still the question remains – what would it have been like to have had a sister? How wonderful to share all the tricky things that have happened along the way: the difficult relationships, the traumatic birth, the worry of bringing up children, the changing world. Of course, many people will tell me I’m idolizing the sister bond, but still I can imagine, especially in my writing, what it would be like to have one of my own.

The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana is out now, published by Mantle, price £14.99 hardback

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