Two sinister siblings: The Mountain Lion, by Jean Stafford, reviewed

Many of the best literary children – think the creations of Henry James or Elizabeth Bowen – have something creepy about them. These are girls and boys who see through the hypocrisy of adults, and there’s going to be something unnerving about their precocity. Jean Stafford’s Mollie and Ralph took their place in a lineage with James’s Flora and Miles and Bowen’s Henrietta and Leopold when she flung them, bespectacled and prone to nosebleeds, into the world in 1946. Stafford was the first wife of Robert Lowell, and it’s the main thing most people know about her now – unsurprisingly. Lowell was a man who made his mark on his

A podcast with real emotional heft: Philippa Perry’s Siblings in Session reviewed

Have you ever taken a piece of advice? I’m not asking a rhetorical question. Have you ever once in your life been given a piece of advice that you’ve then acted on? I ask this question a lot at parties, and generally find the answer is: ‘No, not that I can think of.’ It may be that when we take good advice, we begin to imagine we came up with the idea in the first place. It may be that we always just do whatever it is we were always going to do. All I can say for sure is that if you ask: ‘What’s the best piece of advice

Sister, where are you? – Clover Stroud mourns her beloved sibling

‘CERTIFICATE IS NOT EVIDENCE OF IDENTITY,’ the freshly issued death certificate read. In the craziness and shock of grief for her beloved sister Nell Gifford, who died at 4.20 p.m. on 8 December 2019, aged 46 (‘Cause of death: metastatic breast cancer’), Clover Stroud found herself clinging to those capitalised words. ‘Yes, the certificate was wrong… My sister was not the deceased and the very certificate I was holding was telling me that.’ She started searching for her everywhere. ‘Whereareyouwherareyouwhere-areyouwhereareyou’ she asks for one whole page of this book in an enlarged typeface denoting the din in her head. She feels as if she’s setting out into the evil depths