When I think about My Sister Sif I always see shifting colours of aquas and blues and marine mammals swimming through it. The story of two sisters pulled between the world of land and their mother's world of sea, My Sister Sif is a story where the ocean is almost a character in its own right.
Set mainly on the fictional island of Rongo in the South Pacific*, Rico and her sister, Sif, are stuggling to return home. For years they have been exiled to city and boarding schools, but after selling some shells, they can return to their beloved Island and swim again with their mother's people - the mer-people- who live beneath the waves. However, trouble threatens and Sif and Rico both have hard decisions to make.
This book was published long, long ago when I was a teenager, but it still reads as vividly and immediately as ever. The themes of environment, family, loss, love and belonging are just as relevant and the characters have lost none of their charm, both Sif's sweet gentleness and Rico's fierce protectiveness.
The author, Ruth Park, died in 2010 at the grand age of 93 after giving dozens of brilliant books to the world. While Park was born in New Zealand, she lived most of her life in Australia, and I'll claim her as a fellow Aussie.
My Sister Sif beautifully renders the Pacific Islands, and Park's descriptions send me tumbling into homesickness - for Tonga, the Islands where the South Pacific first began to cast its spell on me and we commenced our love-hate relationship, (and the girls travel through on the way to Rongo) Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, the Island where I met my beloved (and my lovely Island dog), and Efate, the Island in Vanuatu where my baby boy spent his first year. Although Rongo is fictional, so often when reading I found tears in my eyes 'O I know that.'
This is fantasy of the antipodes - fantasy re-imagined far from Europe. A fantasy of reef and deep sea that lets the readers share the sisters deep longing to be home and their love for their home.
*'Just above the Tropic of Capricorn, lying halfway between the Friendlies and the Cook Islands, south-west of Tahiti and the Marquesas.'