cover image The Three Incestuous Sisters

The Three Incestuous Sisters

Audrey Niffenegger, . . Abrams, $27.95 (164pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-5927-9

Niffenegger, author of the two-plus-million-copy bestseller The Time Traveler's Wife , showcases her artistic talent in an oversized "novel in pictures" she calls "the book of my heart, a fourteen-year labor of love." It's the strange and haunting story of three sisters who "lived together in a lonely house by the sea, near the lighthouse, miles away from the city." Blonde Bettine is the youngest and prettiest, redhead Clothilde is "the most talented" and blue-haired Ophile, the eldest, is considered the smartest. When lightning kills the lighthouse keeper, his son, Paris, arrives to take his place; Paris and Bettine quickly fall in love and conceive a child. Jealous Ophile misbehaves badly; psychic Clothilde communes with the unborn baby, whom she names the Saint; and Bettine and Paris run away to the city, where tragedy strikes. Niffenegger's spare, full-page, sepia-toned aquatints ("an idiosyncratic, antique" medium) are evocative and Gorey-esque; they tell the story more than the minimalist prose does. And Niffenegger's afterword is illuminating, both about the process of making aquatints and about her productive methods of procrastination: The Time Traveler's Wife , she reveals, "started its life as the project I played with when I should have been finishing Sisters ." (Sept.)