Sunday 9 June 2019

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

What a hoot!

I wasn't expecting a neo-noir comedy from such a grim title, but I had some genuine laugh out loud moments throughout My Sister, the Serial Killer. Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a punchy, sharp, witty story that blew in like a breath of fresh air in this year's Women's Prize shortlist.

One of the reasons why I love to read the various shortlists and longlists is for the surprises they throw up - for the books I would probably never read otherwise. Not because I have anything in particular against said books, but simply because there are so many books out there and I can only read so many. We all make decisions about what books we usually choose to read. We have preferred genres, topics, writing styles, We have pet interests and passions that guide our choices. We're influenced by book clubs, pretty covers, word of mouth, bookseller recommendations and publicity blurbs. Our mood, phase of life and even the weather all impact on our reading habits. Every good book that crosses our path, feels like a little miracle of good luck and serendipity.

So many good books (or otherwise) slip under our radars. But getting a major book award nomination suddenly elevates a book into the wider public gaze. Bloggers blog about them, papers publish interviews and reviews and the authors suddenly appear on podcasts, morning TV programs and get invited to writer's festivals.

The cover and title of My Sister, the Serial Killer caught my eye when it first appeared on our shelves at work. It sounded intriguing, but contemporary noir thrillers are not my usually high on my reading agenda. It took being shortlisted for it to actually make it's way onto my TBR pile. And it took just finishing a rather intense, lengthy book and feeling in the need for a shorter, lighter, palate cleansing read for me to pick it up this week.

It was an utter delight from start to finish.

I loved the rhythmic, snappy language. I loved both sisters, despite their obvious flaws (they reminded me of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood with one being the reserved, careful, responsible sister and the other being carefree, careless and impulsive). I loved the humour that hid much darker secrets and disturbing childhoods. I also really enjoyed the glimpses into daily life in Lagos and the customs and traditions of modern life in Nigeria.

What appeared to be a light, easy read actually concealed much tougher issues behind it's shiny exterior. The effects of domestic childhood abuse on subsequent generations and the serious psychological pain it leaves were addressed subtly as too were the specific issues that women face in Nigeria (including child brides).

Favourite Quote:
I know better than to take life directions from someone without a moral compass.

Favourite Character: The eldest sister, Korede. I love her assessment of the situation. She describes, her younger, killer sister, Ayoola as being "completely oblivious to all but her own needs" and "she is incapable of practical underwear". Her obsessive cleaning habit and precise organisational skills tell their own story,
The things that will go into my handbag are laid out on my dressing table.
Two packets of pocket tissues, on 30-centiliter bottle of water, one first aid kit, one packet of wipes, one wallet, one tube of hand cream, one lip balm, one phone, one tampon, one rape whistle.
Basically the essentials for every woman

Favourite or Forget: No need to reread this one, but thoroughly enjoyed it and will look out for whatever Braithwaite does next.

Fascinating Facts:  I first came across the tradition of ten year anniversaries to commemorate the passing of loved ones in Amor Towles' A Gentleman of Moscow. I was surprised/curious to see that it was also a part of Nigerian life. I hadn't heard about this custom before but it sounds like such a healthy thing to do.

It has been ten years now (since our father died) and we are expected to celebrate him, to throw an anniversary party in honour of his life.

Even if your relationship with the dead person in question was problematic!

  • Longlisted for the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award.
  • Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019
  • Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2019

Book 2/20 Books of Summer (winter)
I finished this book on Tuesday when it only reached 14℃ in Sydney. We had wind coming off snow in the mountains and rainy, grey skies. It was a miserable day perfect for curling up with a good book. On Tuesday Dublin reached a balmy, summery 12℃!


  1. Sounds fabulous.

  2. Ooh, I've been interested in this one, and now I'm more interested!

  3. That's why I love prizelists too!

  4. Yeah, I loved this one too!


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