Oct 18, 2007

The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger

This recent post by Dewey got me thinking that I haven’t read many graphic novels at all in the past few months, and that I miss reading them. For this reason, I decided to visit the graphic novel section when I went to return some books to the local library, and this book caught my eye.

I had never read anything by Audrey Niffenegger before, but after reading reviews by fellow bloggers I am quite sure I will love The Time Traveller’s Wife when I finally pick it up. I thought that, in the meantime, reading The Three Incestuous Sisters would be a good way to get an idea of what her writing is like.

The Three Incestuous Sisters is described as“A Novel in Pictures”, and that is indeed what it is. The book is thick, but there is barely any text at all. Once sentence a page, one paragraph at the very most. What carries the story, then, are the beautiful full-page illustrations. The text is only there to help them along.

The book tells the story of three sisters, Bettine, Ophile and Clothilde. The harmony between them is disrupted when one of them, Bettine, gets involved with a young man named Paris, for whom Ophile also develops feelings. In the afterword, the author said the following about the story:
When I try to explain "The Three Incestuous Sisters" to someone who hasn’t seen it, I tell them to imagine a silent film made from Japanese prints, a melodrama of sibling rivalry, a silent opera that features women with very long hair and a flying green boy. I never try to explain what it means; you can find that out for yourself.
I think this is an accurate description of the book. The story reminded me at times of a myth or a fairy tale; at other times of an ancient Greek tragedy.

The beautiful illustrations are done by Audrey Niffenegger herself. In the afterword she also explains the technique she uses, and she says that the book took 14 years to complete. It will take less than an hour of your time to read it, and most likely in the end you will think it was a very well-spent hour. Judging by this book, Audrey Niffenegger is a very original and gifted storyteller. I definitely want to read more of her work in the future.

Reviewed at:
Rhinoa's Ramblings
Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops
The Hidden Side of a Leaf


  1. Dewey's post got me to thinking as well. Only I've never read any graphic novels. Not sure why. This certainly looks quite intriguing.

  2. Oddly enough, I JUST did an interview with Niffenegger last week for the November issue of Estella's Revenge!!! I love her, and I can't wait to read this book.

  3. I absolutely adore Niffenegger, and this is the book that has been on my wishlist the longest without me actually getting it. I'm dying to read it! And I'm so jealous of Andi!

  4. I'm jealous of Andi too! I would love to meet her. I've been wanting to get my hands on this one for awhile...ever since I read The Time Traveler's Wife. Glad you enjoyed it, Nymeth. After reading The Time Traveler's Wife I just wanted to find anything I could of hers and this one is hard to come by. She hasn't published any other novels yet. I may just have to order this one or her other graphic novel. It sounds beautiful! Thanks for the review ;)

  5. Debi, you should give them a try! There are some really good ones out there.

    Andi, how exciting! I really look forward to the November issue!

    Dewey, do get it soon. It's such an original and haunting little story.

    Chris: It does seem hard to come by... I wasn't even aware it existed until I saw it at the library. I've never seen it at bookstores or anything. But yeah, it's definitely worth tracking down!

  6. I read TTW a few years ago and loved it, but I was never sure about this book. I did browse through it at the store a while back, but wasn't interested enough to buy it. Your review is really intriguing and makes me think I should gives this one a try.

  7. Trish: It's a good story - the only think that I think could be frustrating about buying it is that you get something you read in half an hour for the price of a "full" book. But I think the beautiful artwork makes it worth it. Maybe you could see if you can find it at a library and take a look first.

  8. Sounds like fun. I really enjoyed The Time Travellers Wife so will look out for this or put it on my christmas list.


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