“White Ghost Girls” by Alice Greenway

Kate and her older sister Frankie are growing up in 1960s Hong Kong, living with their artist mother while their photographer father covers the Vietnam War. Teenage Frankie craves the attention of her parents, while quiet Kate is witness to the more and more risky and outrageous attempts of her older sister to dominate centre stage in the family. The price Kate must pay is to become almost anonymous within her own family, and hide the desperation she feels as her world begins to spiral out of control. The story is told with Kate as the narrator, and although we know from the opening paragraphs that this is being recounted after the events have unfolded, it is written as though it is as it happens.

At 168 pages, White Ghost Girls is a quick read, yet there is an awful lot packed into the book, but it just didn’t engage me at all. I didn’t feel any empathy for the characters, and the story didn’t feel unique. By this I mean that there was nothing that made it stand out from other books about sisters growing up or a family struck by tragedy. After finishing the book, I’ve read some reviews that say the writing style is poetic and lyrical, and I wonder if that was why I didn’t like it, as I have to admit that I can’t get to grips with poetry, and the style of this book left me cold, feeling as though the author was trying too hard to impress.

I’ve read this for my reading group, and I’m going to be interested to hear what they have to say, as I usually have polar opposite views to the majority of the group on the books we read, so they’ll probably love it!

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