Play twins halfway. The distance follows.

THE SWEET SISTERS By Élisabeth Weiss Elizabeth Weiss’ debut novel, “The Sisters Sweet,” is an elegant and immersive family saga set in t...


THE SWEET SISTERS
By Élisabeth Weiss

Elizabeth Weiss’ debut novel, “The Sisters Sweet,” is an elegant and immersive family saga set in the deceptive vaudeville culture of the early 20th century. Leonard Szasz, an unemployed set designer, persuades his wife to create an act that will bring them back into show business – the family business, as he likes to remind her. They’ll arm their twin daughters, Harriet and Josephine, in elaborate costumes, and parade them across the country like a pair of singing and dancing Siamese twins. Their mother, Maude, a former showgirl, is less enthusiastic about the idea, but – having no other financial perspective – reluctantly agrees.

When they start, the girls are 5, pretty and charming, and the act takes off in large part thanks to Josie’s natural talent and charisma. “Josie was grinning wildly, theatrically. I felt the stirring of a strong desire to play, and I knew it was Josie’s desire first, that she passed it on to me, ”Harriet tells us, recounting their introduction to life. on the scene. Girls have a unique, almost psychic bond to twins; they are embracing this new venture, but for different reasons. And this is the first invisible break in the link between them. Harriet performs to please her sister, to stay connected. Josie does this for the wave of applause and her thirst for more grows in proportion to their act.

Harriet, the devoted and observant daughter, is eager to protect the family secret, carefully maintaining public personality even as the girls vie for a position in private, each lapping up any affection she can get from her eccentric father and mother. his mother reserved. “Behind the scenes, Mom groomed our hair, but with an unusual tenderness in her touch that made me want to lean into her fingers like a petted cat.” However, the lion’s share of Harriet’s devotion is reserved for her sister, and she never suspects that Josie is going beyond the life imposed on them.

It is Josie, reckless and selfish, who refuses to stifle her nascent ambition. When they are 15, she dramatically exposes the act as a fraud and flees to Hollywood, where she transforms into the ingenuous Joséphine Wilder, star of the big screen.

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