Sunday, 4 August 2013

Book Review: 26a - Diana Evans

Synopsis - Identical twins Georgia and Bessi live in the loft of 26 Waifer Avenue.  It is a place of beanbags, nectarines and secrets, and visitors must always knock before entering.  Down below there is not much harmony.  Their Nigerian mother puts cayenne pepper on her Yorkshire pudding and has mysterious ways of dealing with homesickness; their father angrily roams the streets of Neasden, prey to the demons of his Derbyshire upbringing.  Forced to create their own identities, The Hunter children build a separate universe.  Older sister Bel discovers sex, high heels and organic hairdressing, the twins prepare for a flapjack empire, and baby sister Kemy learns to moonwalk like Michael Jackson.  It is when reality comes knocking that the fantasies of childhood start to give way.  How will Georgia and Bessi cope in a world of separateness and solitude, and which of them will be stronger?

Review - A truly poignant and beautiful tale from Diana Evans.  An excellent debut and worthy winner of the Orange prize and being short-listed for the Whitbread First Novel Award.  This is not a new book having been published in 2005 and sat on my shelf for far too long.  Ms Evans has gone on to write The Wonder which I have also read and enjoyed.

We are given insight into the backgrounds of Aubrey and Ida the parents in this story.  Aubrey, a sensitive boy, like his mother in character, feels an outsider with his father and two older brothers.  He suffers merciless teasing at their expense and is pampered by his lonely mother whose tonic is a glass of sherry when things get tough.  Ida is Nigerian and comes from a family with superstition and tales.  A girl whose father knows no different but to find his daughter a husband, however, Ida is feisty and fights for what she wants.  She meets Aubrey in Lagos and their lives become entwined.  However, it is a short-lived happiness once they move to England and Ida suffers homesickness and retreats into her own world.  Aubrey becomes even more conflicted displaying behaviours seen in his father combined with the insecurities of his mother.  These are deep character portrayals which add to the story, giving the reader an understanding of the why's and wherefores of what is going on in this family.

It is a story of suffering, loss, betrayal, love, sharing, a real insight into what it must be like to be identical twins.  I have no knowledge of identical twins.  Both sets of twins in our family are cousins, mixed sex twins and I have not had conversations with them to ask or gain an understanding of what it must be like to be a half, whether they feel a connection that binds them together.  Sadly, one of these sets did part all too young in sad and final circumstances.  I have no idea how the living twin feels, how much she misses her brother.

It is not only the concept or storyline, it is the language, description and most importantly the storytelling that I love about this book.  4*

ISBN 0-099-47904-4

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