I’ll be completely honest that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the synopsis of this book which was kindly sent to me by the publishers Bloomsbury. It mentions literary thriller, but that could cover a multitude of sins, the key word psychological complex and but the word that really caught my attention was twins!
I opened the book and the style of the language gave me some insight into the literary part of the marketing. The voice is that of a young girl, something I’m not too keen on, but then not too many pages in while not thrilled I became involved in the story of the six year old identical twins who swapped names and by default roles. Ellie who became Helen was no longer the naughty twin, but the new Ellie’s frustration at being cast in the role soon meant that she took on the characteristics of it. The new Helen refused to swap back and their mother, neighbours and teachers refused to believe that it had ever happened and at times Ellie began to wonder whether she’d imagined it, maybe she was Ellie after all. Her distress is only compounded by the new Helen’s success, in comparison she is outgoing, sweet-natured and popular.
The tale is told partly in the present, 2013 while the other part follows the new Ellie from the day of the swap as she grew and lived the life seemingly prescribed to her by her name through the next twenty-five years. We watch from afar as Helen grows from a popular, well-liked young girl, while Ellie becomes more awkward and prone to risky behaviour. This is one harrowing tale, not so much because of overt violence or anything of that ilk, although Ellie finds herself in some horrible situations, but the unravelling of a mind unsettling and distressing.
What this book isn’t is a thriller in the normal sense of the word, that said I did want to know how life would work out for Ellie given the complex difficulties she faced so we follow her through some awful times as life goes from one disaster to another. Be warned there is very little uplifting about this story as it soon becomes clear that the family has other secrets hidden in plain sight so that the reader comes to realise them before Ellie herself. But this book isn’t about solving the mystery for Ellie, it is about watching her coming to certain realisations herself through the highs and the lows. While the ending is more positive than the rest of the book, there are still enough questions about what might happen next to keep you wondering.
Beside Myself will be published on 14 January 2015 and I’d like to thank the publishers for allowing me to read a copy of this book.