The Vane Sisters Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Vane Sisters

A teacher struggles with the ghosts of a former student and her sister. The narrator of "The Vane Sisters" is a French teacher at an all-girls college, and he comes across a suicide note from one of his students disguised as part of her French essay. He rushes to stop her as soon as he finds it, but he shows up too late. His student killed herself because she couldn't stand the thought of life without her married lover, and said lover showed no signs of leaving his wife for the student. The narrator is left to console the sister of his late student, a woman named Cynthia. The narrator and Cynthia both knew of his student's affair, and Cynthia believes that her sister is punishing her from the grave for meddling (quite literally) in her affairs. Cynthia takes it upon herself to start toying with her sister's lover; sending him locks of her sister's hair and and pictures of the gravesite. This freaks the narrator out a little, and Cynthia's tactics, plus her apparent connection with the dead, cause the narrator and Cynthia to part ways. Or so he thinks. He later learns of Cynthia's death, and although he himself can never sense it, it is apparent to the reader that both of the Vane sisters have been toying with the narrator from beyond the grave; they leave a message for the reader in the last paragraph of the story. For this reason, many tout "The Vane Sisters" as a prime example of an unreliable narrator.
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Best part of story, including ending: I loved the secret message from the Vane Sisters at the end.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene, morbid as it is, is when the narrator is reading the suicide note that is hidden in the essay. It's actually incredibly clever.

Opinion about the main character: What I liked most about the main character, the narrator, is that he is so clueless. The sisters are toying with him all through his story, and he can never tell.

The review of this Book prepared by Victoria Lurie a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Vane Sisters

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   very sensitive (sigh) Time/era of story    -   1960's-1970's Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Coping with loss of loved one(s)    -   Yes Loss of...    -   brother/sisters

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   teacher Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Eastern European


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   5 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Vladimir Nabokov Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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