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The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters
480 pages; Bloomsbury USA
How do seven impoverished, fatherless sisters from rural Ireland with only middling artistic talents rise to notoriety? Darcy, the leader of the tribe, bullies her sisters into taking to the dance halls of their famine-stricken hometown, with hopes of striking it big. At the end of each show, the girls turn their backs to the audience and let down their hair, which cascades, unfettered, to their ankles. They soon become a hit act. "Our hair had its roots inside us, but it was outside as well," says Manticory, the lone redheaded sister and our narrator. "In that slippage between our inner and outer selves—there lurked our seven scintillating destinies and all our troubles besides." The novel is loosely based on a true-life group of American sisters who leveraged their hair to fame and fortune, and is cleverly set during a period when the Pre-Raphaelite style signified romance and freedom. Each of the seven sisters—insult-spitting Darcy, sweet Edna, tender Oona, wicked Berenice, plain Pertilly, spirited Ida, keen-eyed Manticory—will experience heartbreak and violence, even as their stars rise. Read this for the story, which is wildly compelling, and also for the prose, as magnetic as the sisters themselves.
— Julie Buntin