By: Edith Wharton
Ann Eliza and Evelina are spinster sisters eking out a quiet existence as shopkeepers in a crumbling corner of New York City. When Ann Eliza gives Evelina a clock for her birthday, their lives become entangled with the clockmaker Mr. Ramy, with devastating consequences for them both. Ann Eliza feels she has it in her power to ensure her sister’s happiness at the expense of her own – but can she really envisage the effects of her actions?
I’ve greatly enjoyed reading Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (review) and The Age of Innocence (review) so I’ve been curious to check out her other books. I started with this book partly because it’s short but also because the sisters as protagonists intrigued me a lot.
The focus of this novel was more on Ann Eliza, the older of the two sisters, as their quiet lives are turned upside-down with the arrival of Mr. Ramy into their lives. I felt a little bad for Ann Eliza over the course of the first part of the novel because it seemed as though nothing has ever happened in her life whereas her younger sister Evelina seemed to be blessed with more attention and happenings coming her way. There seemed to have been some undercurrent of tension between the sisters the more that Mr. Ramy stuck around but it would have been more interesting had Wharton fleshed out that section of the story. I will say that I did not expect that sudden turn of events in the second half of the novel. Without going into any details I really felt bad for everyone, it was so unexpected. It certainly is a lesson that people are not always what they seem to be.
Bunner Sisters is not as well-developed as The House of Mirth or The Age of Innocence. Many scenes could’ve been fleshed out and the characters could have been more established but it was still interesting to check out and read about characters in a different station in society.