In "The Mutinous Contemplations of Gemma Groot" the strong bond of sisterhood plays an important role. At the root of the story - and the mystery entailed within it - there are two sisters, Alonza and Venetia. One is destined to become a gruesome legend and the other will spend fourteen years trying live it down, before finally realizing that there is no such thing in life as "ordinary", that everybody has dark secrets, and that forcing a square peg into a round hole will only result in pieces being broken off.
Children of Italian immigrants, but born in England, they grew up struggling to maintain their family's traditions and sense of pride, whilst also melding with the staid British way of life in a small market town (Withering Gibbet) where all their neighbors know -- or think they know-- each other's business. They are taught by their parents not to stand out, to be proper at all times, yet they are two girls with passionate tempers and very different ways of looking at life. While one sister would never think to disobey their parents, the other cannot seem to obey anybody at all.
Alonza, as the capable eldest daughter, is expected by her parents to always look after Venetia, who they consider "flighty". But neither girl really wants the roles into which they were put.
As a child, and as a woman, Alonza has done everything that was expected of her -- even married the man her mother selected as suitable. Now if only other folk in her family would behave the same way...
Venetia, the younger sister, refuses to conform with those expectations. She does not fight out loud against them, however. Instead, leaving her noisier elder sister, gesticulating and screaming in frustration, Venetia calmly and simply goes her own way with a pleasant smile on her face. Much to Alonza's irritation, her sister appears to drift selfishly through life without any of the concerns and responsibilities that she has been forced to undertake. For many years Venetia, who talks to fairies in her garden, wears impractically pretty gowns and expensive face powder imported from Paris, and calls cauliflower "ogre's brains", gets away with being an independent spirit. Until she takes her rebellion just a step too far.
Oh yes, it's all fun and games until somebody gets chopped up and baked into the meat pies.
Both sisters, in the end, make great sacrifices for each other and for those they love. And, after a certain dramatic and bloody event in October of 1882, they finally begin to understand each other -- not only to be sisters, but friends too.
You can read more about Alonza Groot and Venetia Warboys in THE MUTINOUS CONTEMPLATIONS OF GEMMA GROOT. Find it HERE.
Thank you for reading!
(Images used here: photo of unknown Victorian sisters, and two paintings by Julius Cyrille Cave - Day Dreams (Alonza) and Plasirs des Champs (Venetia).)