My Sister Sif

Look, I’ll just admit it up front, ok? I was not a horse-y girl. I could not understand Saddle Club; even though I wasn’t very maternal as a young girl, I still preferred Babysitters’ Club books over the horsey ones. (I also did not understand the appeal of the Gymnasts books.) But what I lacked in love for equines I more than made up for in adoration of dolphins. Yes, I was That Girl. I wanted to be a marine biologist for aaaages – until I discovered that they usually spend their time studying plankton, and only the luckiest get to swim with dolphins and make a living from it. I had (… have) dolphin jewellery, and dolphin statuettes, and… yes, you get the picture.

Unsurprisingly, this story captured my heart and made it ache. Terribly. For many varied and heartbreaking reasons.

Riko and Sif go from Australia to their family home on a Pacific island, where it’s revealed (to the audience) that they’re related to mer-people. Who have a connection to dolphins.

There’s romance – for Sif, with a scientist, and for Riko a somewhat confused attempt from what I remember as being a not-entirely-human character, but maybe that’s my memory. There’s adventure – people doing suspicious things on their island, especially. And there’s character. Riko is wonderfully realised – rebellious, envious of her sister and desperately loving and protective of her at the same time, practical and down to earth and determined. Sif is the more fey – physically, having more of a connection to their mer-relatives, as well as personality wise; this is, I realise, something of a Jane/Lizzie Bennett pairing. Hmm. And in the end, there’s also a lesson to be learnt, which is done blatantly but also in a ‘you’ve seen all of this, isn’t it obvious?’ way: Riko goes home determined to change society, beginning with the children, to make it more like dolphins and less likely to destroy the environment… as is happening around the island, and which has helped bring about the great tragedy in her life. Which is the bit that made me cry. Which is Sif dying.

I remember incredibly evocative descriptions of the people and the places, I remember desperately wanting to BE Riko and try to save Sif, and I remember trying to swim like the mer-people are described as doing, too, to my embarrassment. On which note, this was one of the first serious attempts at explaining merfolk that I remember reading, and it still strikes me that their attempt to include their land-bound brethren is a remarkable one – developing breathing apparatus and the like. I think I still want to be Riko.

I should re-read this. I’m quite sure the power of Riko and Sif has warded off the Suck Fairy.

It’s Tansy’s fault I’m reliving these childhood memories. See this post for her love of Grange Hill…

2 responses

  1. I adoooored “My Sister Sif” – I re-read it so many times as a kid. I used to use Sif as a pseudonym online many years ago (probably because I thought it was so tragically beautiful). It’s one of those books where I can still remember the essence of the characters very clearly, particularly reading your description of Riko – they were such well realised characters.

    1. ooh I never even thought of doing that! Altho I think I would have gone with Riko if I had… even though I’m the oldest I never felt like I was Sif at all. Riko is a lot more me!

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