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A Tale of Two Sisters

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Overview

Cassie is slender, clever, charismatic, successful. The one flaw in her perfect life may be her marriage. Her sister Lizbet is plumper, plainer, dreamier. An aspiring journalist, she's stuck writing embarrassing articles on sex for Ladz Mag. Her one achievement is her relationship with Tim, who thinks she's amusing and smart. Despite Cassie being the favored child, she and Lizbet have always been best friends. But then Lizbet gets pregnant.

Forced apart by mistakes not their ...

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A Tale of Two Sisters

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Overview

Cassie is slender, clever, charismatic, successful. The one flaw in her perfect life may be her marriage. Her sister Lizbet is plumper, plainer, dreamier. An aspiring journalist, she's stuck writing embarrassing articles on sex for Ladz Mag. Her one achievement is her relationship with Tim, who thinks she's amusing and smart. Despite Cassie being the favored child, she and Lizbet have always been best friends. But then Lizbet gets pregnant.

Forced apart by mistakes not their own, enticed by new loves, and confronted by challenges they never asked for, Cassie and Lizbet struggle to rediscover the simple goodness of their sisterhood, even as their lives take them on a collision course of heartache and new beginnings.

A Tale of Two Sisters is Anna Maxted at her best-a highly entertaining yet deeply involving story of sisters who lose their way and need each other to find themselves again..

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Maxted succeeds in capturing the ways people can talk past each other and miss connections with even those they need most in the world.... [She has a] sure grasp of intimate relationships.
The Washington Post Book World
Maxted is a terrific writer with a droll comedic voice.... even her minor characters are full of life.
Glamour
With her winning combination of honesty and warmth, Maxted has ensured herself another triumph.
Publishers Weekly
Lizbet and Cassie Montgomery, Jewish sisters in London, seem to like their lives: Lizbet, cute but schlumpy, has a mid-level job at Ladz Mag and a smart, sweet long-term, live-in boyfriend in product designer Tim; barrister Cassie, glossy, smart and hot, is married to fastidious BBC production assistant George Hershlag, which suits her fine. The two sisters have a close if constrained relationship, but when Lizbet announces she's pregnant, Cassie turns cold, even as their parents ("Vivica and Dad") are immediately thrilled. When, 30 or so pages later, Lizbet miscarries the baby in the second trimester, she plunges into despair. Cassie comes to her aid, but it may be too little, too late. Maxted (Behaving Like Adults, etc.) alternates smoothly between Lizbet's and Cassie's perspectives, giving each a distinctive voice and nailing lapsed London Jewry amusingly. When she shifts to Cassie, she handles a series of major revelations with the same emotional acuity that she gives Lizbet's devastation at the loss of her baby. As Lizbet discovers her fabulous side (but perhaps not for the better), what looks from the outside like Cassie's comeuppance is full of crushing sadness. Maxted has to do a lot of wrangling to manage the happy ending, but it offsets this chick lit novel's surprisingly harrowing center. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Best-selling author Maxted (Being Committed) hits a home run with yet another delicious story about relationships, this time between sisters. Successful barrister Cassie is younger, prettier, and appears to be happily married, and Lizbet, who writes a sex column for a men's magazine, is chunky and, along with her boyfriend Tim, the potty king, has her head in the clouds. Despite these cavernous differences, the sisters are somehow as thick as thieves, even when Lizbet accidentally gets pregnant while Cassie, after a year of trying, finds that she can't conceive. Perhaps it is the strength of siblings struggling together to survive their blundering parents that keeps the two so close, despite the revelation of shocking secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Written in alternating voices, their stories are compelling and heartfelt while still displaying Maxted's trademark humor. If you have a sister, you'll want to share this book with her, and if you don't, you'll wish you did. Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Stacy Alesi, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., Boca Raton, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two London sisters hash out their troubles in this fourth novel from Maxted (Behaving Like Adults, 2003, etc.), champion of issue-orientated chick-lit. She's covered anorexia and date rape; now Maxted turns her attention to babies-wanting them, adopting them, losing them by miscarriage. Though Cassie and Lizbet are as close as can be, they couldn't be more different. Younger Cassie is a high-powered barrister with a sense of entitlement that would be infuriating if she didn't work so hard (for those lovely clothes, the Merc, the posh house) and charm so well. Lizbet is of more relaxed, with a messy house that she and boyfriend Tim cannot afford, an admittedly silly job at the soft-core Ladz magazine and a general desire to please, and to be pleased by everything bright and yummy. When Lizbet finds she is pregnant, she's horrified, then delighted. When the couple breaks the news at Friday Sabbath dinner, all are pleased but Cassie, who wavers between avoidance and seething rage. Unbeknownst to the family, Cassie and husband George (a loser mama's boy if ever there was one) have been trying to conceive for a year. Cassie reveals even more heartache-at 13, her parents revealed that she was adopted. The three kept it a secret, but Cassie has lately been searching for her birth mother, who recently died. Soon Cassie's jealousy becomes a moot point-Lizbet has a miscarriage and her life begins to fall apart. Lizbet discovers a taste for alcohol ("Jews don't drink, its ridiculous!" warns her icy mother), then Lizbet forces perfect Tim out of her life. And she loses her job. Cass has it only slightly better-she's pregnant, but just as she's decided to divorce George, he wants to sue her forcustody. The sister's problems with their partners, their parents and all things related to babies are trotted out with good humor, genuine emotion and, unfortunately, oversimplification. But it's the nature of this particular beast. Maxted amiably delivers what's expected.
From the Publisher
“Warm, poignant and very funny.”
–Marian Keyes

“Hugely funny. Maxted writes beautifully.”
Daily Express

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452288515
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/24/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Maxted works as a freelance journalist and is the author of four international bestsellers: Getting Over It; Running in Heels; Behaving Like Adults and Being Committed.

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Read an Excerpt

Lizbet

Chapter 1

When my sister left her jungle villa after two weeks at the Datai, on the tropical island of Langkawi, she wrote a little note for the manager.

Dear Sir,
Nearly everything was perfect. However, I think one of the monkeys has a cough.
Sincerely,
Ms Cassandra Montgomery

When she returned home a fortnight later — she and George having gone on to stay at the Regent, in Chiang Mai — a thick cream envelope was waiting on the mat. Cassie tore it open.

Dear Ms Montgomery,
I am delighted that you and your husband enjoyed your stay. Thank you for pointing out that one of the monkeys has a cough. We have informed our vet.
Sincerely . . .

When Tim and I left our bed and breakfast accommodation on the Isle of Wight, I wrote a little note to the owners.

Dear Martyn and Tanya,
Sorry to leave early without saying goodbye. I hope the Garlic Festival was fun. It's just that the rain and the viral gastro-enteritis have reduced our previously great wealth of activities to watching daytime television and hanging over your khakigreen (or should I say khazi-green? Probably not!) toilet bowl. Also, Tomas's cold is getting worse — he claims that the 'horrid smell' — the pleasant Forest Blast air freshener! — makes his head hurt. And, it's quite hard to cater for an irate two-year-old's extraordinary dietary demands when you don't have a kitchen.
Best,
Elizabeth M

I never got a reply, which made me feel less guilty when Tim confessed that his parting message had been to piss against their wall.

The holiday might have been less of a strain were we not looking after our godson while his parents were in Japan for a funeral. We weren't bad, as godparents go, so I thought. Most people are pleased at the honour, counting it as evidence of what fine human beings they are. Their conceit wanes as fast as it takes for the child to open its mouth and say 'WAAAH'. Then they realise. This isn't a compliment, it's a contract. Your friends croak, the kid's yours. Even if they do manage to stay alive, the constant outlay on gifts is on a financial par with keeping a string of racehorses.

Though it was tempting, I didn't think that Jeremy and Tabitha had asked us because we were fabulous. Tim immediately suspected that they didn't have any gay friends. I also felt it was because they presumed that we were too childish ourselves to have children. I'd never said, but people assume. If you ever dared to enquire, you'd be appalled at the poor impression you make on even your closest acquaintances. 'Oh!' — on seeing your ramshackle cutlery collection mainly assembled from airlines — 'I'd have thought you'd have everything in matching silver!'

Tabitha and Jeremy lived next door, and from the day we moved in and Tabitha knocked with champagne, they were determined to love us. I'm not complaining. It was only a problem in that I felt anxious about living up to their kind expectations. The house was a deal tidier than it would have been, thanks to Tabitha's habit of popping in for a coffee most days. (I'd had to ban Nescafé Instant from the premises after a near fist-fight. 'Oh, I'll just have the cheap stuff, Elizabeth!' — 'Absolutely not, I'll make filter!' — 'No! I won't hear of it! Please don't go to any trouble!' — 'Tabitha, I insist, don't you dare, give me that jar!' etc. — 'Well, if you feel that strongly . . . !')

Tabitha had been there when Tim's German aunt had invited herself round to show off quite the plainest baby I'd ever seen. 'Hah!' she'd said, as I tried to resist the hypnotic lure of her enormous bosom. 'Elizabett is getting broody!'

I had met Tim's German aunt twice and the assumption I'd made of her was that she could never understand why another person might oppose her opinion.

'No, I'm not!' I heard myself say in a loud, cross voice. 'I'm not getting broody at all!' Then, so as not to appear petulant, I added, 'I like babies. They're very . . . small. I just don't want one personally.'

Tim's German aunt pulled the baby closer, and zoned me out of her eyeline.

Tabitha darted me a sharp look, and purred, 'All babies are beautiful, aren't they? And what a nice size. Is he feeding well?'

I hurried into the kitchen to make a great big cafetière of designer coffee with every last scrap of caffeine processed out of it, which I hoped would please everyone.

I felt like a wet cat for a long time afterwards. Till at least ten forty-five. I didn't like having to defend myself for what wasn't even a decision, yet. I was thirty at the time, and it didn't seem that long ago that I'd had to defend myself, aged fifteen, to Aunt Edith for not having a boyfriend. Not content with assuming that you were prim about cutlery, people assumed that you wanted children and were jealous of theirs. And commented openly! I couldn't decide which was ruder. I had caught Tabitha's sharp look, and wondered what it meant. Six months later, when she and Jeremy invited us round for dinner, and Tabitha had grown to the fine shape of a ripening squash, it sort of made sense.

'We'd love to be godparents! What a lovely, lovely, er, thing!' I croaked, before Tim said something inappropriate, like, 'It's still half-fish, aren't you supposed to wait till it's born?' I loved Tim with all my heart but in social situations he trod a fine line. Dinner parties were rare these days, what with everyone around us procreating, but when we were invited out, I'd spend the night with my hand hovering over his — less because we couldn't bear not to be touching than because the arrangement enabled me to gently suffocate any faux pas at its inception.

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2009

    Good story

    I thought this was a good book overall. A little slow to start but then a little too fast at the end. Good humor!

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    Weak story line...

    This book had a weak story line. You are lead to believe it's this great "Tale of Two Sisters" but almost from the beginning, you can see that the story just goes in circles. No one character is defined. It's a shallow story that's an ok read if you have nothing else on hand.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A discerning look at assimilated ¿Anglicized¿ Jews

    In London the Jewish sisters Lizbet and Cassie Montgomery seem to live reasonably contented lives. The attractive but a bit chubby Lizbet works as a columnist at Ladz Mag and lives with a nice boyfriend, product designer Tim. Glamorous beauty Cassie is a barrister married to BBC production assistant George Hershlag. Both seem contented and have a tight but also tense relationship between them because they always have competed with one another.------------------ Lizbet raises the bar of the sibling rivalry when she informs their parents and her sister that she is pregnant. Whereas Vivica and Dad are euphoric with the thought of a grandchild, Cassie is angry as she has tried futilely for a year she secretly prays for the worst. Her payers are answered when Lizbet miscarries. While Lizbet is despondent and depressed, Cassie feels guilty so trying to assuage her conscience she tries to be there for her sister.------------------ This is a discerning look at assimilated ¿Anglicized¿ Jews with the viewpoint rotated between the two sisters. Both come alive in different ways yet share in common a deep love for one another and at times a deeper sibling rivalry. Lizbet's emotional trauma is much more devastatingly than the series of woes that strike Cassie her subplot comes across that much stronger too. Chick lit in design, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is compelling, sad yet amusing look at sisters, rivals hitherto teammates always their for each other. ------------- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted February 18, 2011

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted January 12, 2009

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    Posted July 8, 2009

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    Posted November 16, 2008

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