A heart-wrenching exploration of grief, set in a landscape corrupted by fame and the scrutiny that comes from living in the shadow of a star.

“Lizzie Beck” is one quarter of British pop sensation The Jinks, who launched their career via a reality TV talent show and rose straight to fame – and in Lizzie’s case, infamy, for her tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, stints in rehab and candid confessions about her mental health on Instagram.

To Emmy, though, she will always be her older sister, Beth, the person whose footsteps she intends to follow.
Except now she can’t. Because Beth, Emmy’s beloved sister, has died by suicide.

Forced to face a world without the guiding light of her bright, brilliant big sister, Emmy must wrestle with the impact of private grief, public scrutiny and discover who she once was and who she will become, now that Beth is gone.


6 stars and the best “ugly cry” of 2023 so far.

Seriously, this book deserves to be better known and much more readers!

I bought it as Sara Barnard is coming at YALC London and because I read Micky @bookphenomena ‘s review on Instagram.

I had no idea how much this book would affect me!

I read it in one day, on my way back from London, and I couldn’t stop crying on the train, earning me annoyed looks from my daughter and concerned looks from the other passengers.

That book is intense, accurate in the grieving process, beautiful and so moving!

The plot is simple: Emmy lost her sister Beth to suicide. Beth was a famous singer in a girlband but to Emmy, she simply was her big and beloved sister.

We’ll follow Emmy in her grieving process, her family, the media circus, everything.

Beth was everything to Emmy.

“Every trace of me is a trace of her.”

As with many suicide, there is incomprehension and a feeling of betrayal. Why did Beth kill herself? Why did she leave Emmy?

“The other thing I don’t find in that room is a goodbye. I know it’s not there because I looked everywhere.”

Grief is also hurting while everyone you is living his life.

“But it still hurts to watch, from my quiet, empty room.

The glitz

The laughter

The music

The dancing

The joy.

The world isn’t just carrying on.

The world is having a party.”

It was also hard to witness how the media and the public helped pushing Beth to suicide. Mocking her, insulting her because she wore some revealing clothes.

We’ll guess that Beth was probably depressed and that she should have been treated, get professional help. But it still broke my heart to see her hurting so much in life.

Emmy wanted to tell everyone how Beth was a great sister. Even if, yes, she only remembered the good parts. Not all the ways Beth was unstable or didn’t show up when she should have. But her parents, everyone really, didn’t want her to talk to the media. And not talking, not being talked to, slowly suffocated Emmy.

“I think about that word, “minor”.

I can’t do anything because I am a minor.

            Can’t talk to the press.

            Can’t do interviews.

            Can’t do anything.

I am a minor. A minor.

            A minor character.

            A minor consideration.

            A minor; secondary to the former, Beth.


My key signature has  no flats and no sharps, no troughs and no peaks.

My relative major is Beth. My parallel major is Beth.”

Emmy is utterly lost without Beth and her grieving process will be a long and arduous one.

“I miss Beth so much I think I might die with it.

I am the only child of two grieving parents and it’s going to wreck me.

I don’t know how to live in this life anymore.

I don’t know how to be.”

I am sorry for all the quotes but I wanted to show Sara’s writing. Because that book is just a long scream. A plea from Emmy to her sister Beth. It’s also a journey. To get back to life. To learn to enjoy it again, without the guilt.

To learn how to go from being a sister to being an only child.

To find your own path and not just be in your big sister’s shadow.

If you love deeply emotional books, written with immense talent. If you are ready to have your heart pulverized and then built back again with some added cracks, then read this book.

But have tissues at the ready and don’t wear mascara….

Thanks for reading.


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  1. There’s no missing how much this one impacted you! I’ve never read anything by Barnard but I love the sound of this one. My library doesn’t have it so maybe it hasn’t released here yet.

  2. Oh wow, this sounds like an amazing yet deeply emotional read. Love your story about reading it and crying on the train, that’s how you know a story is really touching! 🙂
    I’m not sure I’m in the mood for an ugly cry at the moment, but I’m definitely keeping this one in mind!