A Tale of Two Sisters
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"A Tale of Two Sisters" Characters Analysis

By Anna Maxted

chick lit | 368 pages | Published in 2005

The bestselling author of Getting Over It and Running in Heels, a writer who “excels at creating winning characters and placing them in artfully crafted muddles” (Florida Sun-Sentinel) has created an unforgettable story of siblings in the best of times and the worst of times in London. Lizbet and Cassie are sisters and, though they’ve always wanted different things, best friends as well. But that’s about to change. Cassie is skinny, clever, charismatic, successful—every not-so-perfect girl’s worst nightmare. The one defect in her quality-controlled life may be her marriage. Lizbet is plumper, plainer, dreamier. She’s desperate to make her name as a journalist, but is stuck writing embarrassing articles on sex for a men’s magazine. Her one achievement is her relationship with Tim, who thinks she’s amusing and smart—even when she asks ditzy questions. Confronted by challenges that they never asked for, enticed by new loves, and forced apart by mistakes not their own, will Cassie and Lizbet ever figure out how to get back to the simple goodness of their sisterhood, even as their lives take them on a collision course of heartache and new beginnings?


Estimated read time: 6 min read

List of Characters

SophieProtagonist's sister
MarkLove interest
AliceBest friend
MichaelSophie's husband
KateSophie's daughter
TomEmma's ex-boyfriend

Role Identification

In "A Tale of Two Sisters" by Anna Maxted, the main characters are Emma and Sophie, two sisters who navigate the complexities of their relationships, personal growth, and the pursuit of happiness. Emma serves as the protagonist, while Sophie plays a crucial supporting role as her sister. Other significant characters include Mark, Alice, Michael, Kate, and Tom, who contribute to the development of the story and the dynamics between the sisters.

Character Descriptions

  • Emma: Emma is a thirty-something woman who is intelligent, witty, and independent. She has a penchant for sarcasm and often uses humor as a defense mechanism. With her shoulder-length brown hair and striking green eyes, Emma possesses a natural beauty that she is sometimes unaware of. She is known for her strong work ethic and determination.
  • Sophie: Sophie is Emma's younger sister, and their physical resemblance is striking. However, their personalities couldn't be more different. Sophie is bubbly, outgoing, and tends to wear her heart on her sleeve. She has long, blond hair and a contagious smile. Despite her vivacious nature, Sophie often struggles with self-confidence and relies on Emma for emotional support.
  • Mark: Mark is the charming and handsome love interest who captures Emma's attention. He is tall, with dark hair and captivating blue eyes. Mark is intelligent, successful, and confident. He shares Emma's dry sense of humor and challenges her intellectually. Their connection is undeniable, and Mark becomes an important catalyst for Emma's personal growth.
  • Alice: Alice is Emma's best friend and confidante. She is a loyal and supportive companion who has known Emma since childhood. Alice is petite with curly red hair and a warm smile. She is a free spirit and often encourages Emma to embrace new experiences and take risks.
  • Michael: Michael is Sophie's husband, and he plays a significant role in Sophie's life. He is a caring and devoted partner, always putting his family first. Michael is tall, with a muscular build and a kind face. While he loves Sophie deeply, he struggles to understand her emotional needs and insecurities.
  • Kate: Kate is Sophie and Michael's young daughter. She is a lively and precocious child with a contagious zest for life. Kate has curly blonde hair and big brown eyes. She adores both her mother and Aunt Emma and often brings joy and laughter to their lives.
  • Tom: Tom is Emma's ex-boyfriend, who makes a brief appearance in the story. He is tall, with a rugged appearance and a charismatic personality. Tom represents Emma's past and the unresolved emotions she must confront to move forward.

Character Traits

  • Emma: Intelligent, witty, determined, independent, sarcastic
  • Sophie: Bubbly, outgoing, emotional, lacks self-confidence
  • Mark: Charming, intelligent, confident, humorous
  • Alice: Loyal, supportive, free-spirited
  • Michael: Caring, devoted, family-oriented
  • Kate: Lively, precocious, joyful
  • Tom: Charismatic, representative of Emma's past

Character Background

Emma and Sophie grew up in a small town, surrounded by a loving family. Their parents provided a stable and nurturing environment, but the sisters had contrasting personalities from an early age. Emma was always independent and focused, excelling academically and pursuing a successful career in journalism. Sophie, on the other hand, was more outgoing and struggled with self-confidence, often seeking validation from others.

As adults, Emma moved to a bustling city and established herself professionally, while Sophie settled down with Michael and became a mother to Kate. Despite their different paths, the sisters maintained a strong bond and relied on each other for emotional support.

Character Arcs

  • Emma: Throughout the book, Emma undergoes a transformative character arc. Initially, she is guarded and hesitant to let people in. However, as she falls in love with Mark and faces her unresolved feelings for Tom, Emma learns to embrace vulnerability and take risks. She begins to prioritize her own happiness and personal growth, ultimately finding a sense of fulfillment and contentment.
  • Sophie: Sophie's character arc revolves around self-discovery and gaining confidence. She initially depends on Emma for emotional support, but as the story progresses, Sophie starts to find her own voice and learns to trust her instincts. Through her journey, she develops a stronger sense of self and begins to prioritize her own happiness.


  • Emma and Sophie: The relationship between the two sisters is at the heart of the story. They share a deep bond and provide each other with much-needed emotional support. Emma often serves as Sophie's anchor, offering guidance and encouragement, while Sophie reminds Emma of the importance of love and connection.
  • Emma and Mark: Emma's relationship with Mark is complex and transformative. They share a deep intellectual connection and a witty banter that draws them closer. Mark challenges Emma to confront her fears and open herself up to love, ultimately leading to a meaningful romantic relationship.
  • Sophie and Michael: Sophie and Michael's relationship is portrayed as loving and stable. However, Sophie's ongoing struggle with self-confidence and emotional needs creates tension in their marriage. Michael's devotion to his family is evident, but he struggles to fully understand and support Sophie's emotional journey.
  • Emma and Alice: Emma and Alice have a strong and enduring friendship. Alice serves as Emma's sounding board and encourages her to step out of her comfort zone. Their friendship provides a sense of stability and support throughout the book.
  • Emma and Tom: Tom represents Emma's past and unresolved emotions. Their relationship is filled with unresolved tension and serves as a catalyst for Emma's personal growth. As Emma confronts her feelings for Tom, she gains clarity and is ultimately able to move forward.

In "A Tale of Two Sisters," Anna Maxted skillfully explores the complexities of sisterhood, love, and personal growth through the diverse and relatable characters of Emma, Sophie, and their relationships with others. The story highlights the importance of self-discovery, embracing vulnerability, and finding happiness on one's own terms.