Our favourite siblings in books & film

Our staff share some of their favourite fictional sibling relationships in books and film.

‘My favourite sibling pairings in books are generally on the more sinister side of things. One of my all-time favourite authors is A.S. Byatt, who is known for real-life sibling drama with her sister Margaret Drabble, also an author. Byatt’s book The Game details the relationship between two very competitive sisters in a way that can’t help but feel slightly autobiographical.

As precocious and highly intelligent children, Cassandra and Julia invented a game in which they would enter an imaginary world modelled on the myths and tales they love to read. This game haunts the sisters well into adulthood, where the tension in their relationship has increased, and they have very nearly become completely estranged. I found this to be a fascinating and psychologically chilling book.’

Ellen Cregan, marketing and events coordinator

‘One of the most beautiful depictions I’ve read about sibling dynamics is from Jandy Nelson’s exquisite YA novel, I’ll Give You the Sun. This coming-of-age story captures how complex relationships between siblings can be – how love, and anger, and joy, and grief, and forgiveness can go hand-in-hand. Twins Jude and Noah are two halves of a whole, but when a tragedy befalls the family, a wedge is driven between the siblings.

The first half of the book is told from the perspective of 13-year-old Noah – a gentle, charismatic artist who struggles in his relationship with his father, and is falling in love for the first time with the boy next door. The second half of the book is set three years later, and belongs to 16-year-old Jude, dealing with the fallout of the fractured relationship between the two siblings and struggling with her own challenges: depression, isolation, and mental illness. The journey that the twins take back to each other is heartbreakingly authentic, and a stunning depiction of the strength of the bond between siblings.’

Lian Hingee, digital marketing manager

‘I’ve just finished reading Trent Dalton’s truly tremendous debut novel, Boy Swallows Universe (due for release in July). This book brings together wonderfully magical imagery with stark reality and bonkers QLD characters. It also happens to feature the very best sibling relationship of all time. It’s impossible to not love this yarn. Reading it I felt sadness and relief, and a sense that there are so many of us down here that make up so many tiny astonishing lives. I’m all in.’

Chris Gordon, events manager

‘My favourite literary siblings are Noah and Emma from my favourite childhood book, Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler, which is sadly out of print.

Jacob Two Two is the youngest in the family which means people rarely listen to him and he has to say everything twice. This awful character trait is enough to have him tried, convicted, and imprisoned on miserable Slimer’s Isle, along with all the other little children that no one takes seriously. Jacob’s older brother and sister, Noah and Emma, obviously regret all the times they taunted Jacob, because they go to great lengths to rescue him. In disguise as the intrepid Shapiro and fearless O’Toole, the leaders of radical activist group Child Power (the book was written in the 70’s after all), Noah and Emma take on the justice system, while sporting Day-Glo flares and capes.

Unfortunately, the entire story can be read as simply a long childish fantasy of Jacob Two Two’s, but my admiration for Shapiro and O’Toole still stands.’

Leanne Hall, children’s specialist

‘Some of my favourite sibling moments have come from the world of childrens’ books and films, when the reality of feelings is so much more raw. For example, I’ve long loved the gentle affection of Shirley Hughes. In her book Dogger, a little brother loses his favourite toy, and in order to get it back, his big sister has to sacrifice the very big, very new and very precious toy she has just won at the fair. She does this with no hesitation, and afterwards, tells her brother that that toy was far too big to fit on her bed anyway.

Another sibling relationship I’ve always adored is from one of my absolute favourite movies, Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro, in which two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, move to the countryside and meet a giant, friendly and eminently merchandisable neighbourhood troll. The two sisters bicker and play in a way that’s entirely relatable, and when Mei goes missing, Satsuki is beside herself trying to find her. (Don’t panic – Mei comes back with a little furry help.)‘

Fiona Hardy, bookseller at Readings Carlton

'I love to read about the mess of families, and the complicated relationships that tie them together. I have five siblings of my own and can confirm that I adore them exactly as much as they drive me crazy. Perhaps given this, I especially love stories of big, sprawling families, such as Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, The Green Road by Anne Enright, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler and The Turner House by Angela Flournoy.

Some of the most memorable siblings I’ve encountered are Merricat and Constance in Shirley Jackson’s fantastic, unsettling We Have Always Lived in the Castle. We the Animals is another book that comes instantly to mind. The story is largely told in the first person plural by a set of three brothers who tear their way through childhood in roaring, thrilling prose.

When I think of adult siblings, I first think of two films, both starring Laura Linney: The Savages (her brother is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) and You Can Count on Me (this time paired with Mark Ruffalo). They are both entirely wonderful and I highly recommend.’

Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator

I'll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun

Jandy Nelson

$17.99Buy now

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