2 Sisters is a World War II spy story starring Elle, featuring her sister Anna, and a nameless female pirate from the past. The main plot follows Elle, her recruitment and her life as a spy. As the story unfolds, we learn bits about her past and about her sister Anna. The minor plot features the nameless female pirate, who indirectly crosses paths with Elle years- possibly centuries- later, though her story- and her strength shares plenty of similarities to Elle’s. 2 Sisters is a lovely book. The art is the main driving force here; there’s no unnecessary narration, or narration at all. Everything is communicated visually, through gesture, expression, and action. This gives the story a different feel, drawing the reader further into the action than another storytelling method might. The dialogue is used sparingly as well, and this verbal minimalism created a rather quiet, melancholy mood throughout the book.
Melancholy is probably not what a reader would expect from an action-filled spy story, but it works. The book reads like a memory, and the tone suits the story perfectly right up until the end when it all comes together. Here I need to give a shout-out to Enger, whose muted colors are mirrored in the muted, depressive atmosphere that carries the reader from beginning to end.
The plot of 2 Sisters is not particularly unique, but it’s interesting and its presentation really sells the story. The characters aren’t deeply explored, and while there’s plenty of action, this story is not action-heavy. Most of the characters go unnamed, including the star of the pirate sub-plot. It makes the story a bit muddled at times, especially since the reader doesn’t even have the benefit of narration to figure out who’s who or what’s what.
There’s also a sub-sub-plot about an ancient Roman cup that makes its way through history and eventually brings certain aspects of the story together, but doesn’t really add anything to the plot. Because the book opens with the cup, the reader expects it to have greater importance than it actually does. Little details like that are key in a such a minimalist method of storytelling, and I found the emphasis on the cup early on ended up detracting from the overall story. Similarly, the pirate ultimately did little to advance the plot, and I felt there was too much focus on her journey.
This book was worth reading, and its distinctive presentation certainly left me feeling a bit gloomy and muted. A story that leaves an emotional impact is worthwhile, and I’d certainly recommend this one. Despite its confused moments and the unnecessary details in an otherwise stylistically minimalist telling, this book was interesting and engaging, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.