I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour for Twin Truths because for those of us who aren’t part of this special type of twosome, there is something fascinating about twins. Fortunately the author Shelan Rodgers agrees with me and has written a little post about the phenomenon.
Why are we fascinated by twins? Especially identical twins. No matter what they look like, they never go unnoticed; there is something magnetic about them, something that makes us want to stare and see inside them. Is it because we are brought up on difference – the idea that everyone is unique, individual, different – and the physical similarity of identical twins challenges all that? What would it be like to exist ‘in duplicate’? The very idea plays havoc with our preconceptions about personal identity. And if two people are the same on the outside, what about the inside?
In Her, a memoir by Christa Parravini, Christa says she and her identical twin ‘were like an apple sliced in half: two halves of the same fruit, one with more seeds, one with fewer.’ The idea of a connection so strong that single selves no longer exist also exerts a strange and compelling pull. How often do people seek completion through someone else? How often does love fail because we are looking for ‘our other half’? As if we were born with half of ourselves missing. As if we were part of a divine jigsaw puzzle and just need to find the piece that fits and makes us whole. In reality, we are born and die alone – unless we are twins. Even if they die alone, twins are born together and, whatever happens in their lives, their shared beginning intrigues us, makes them different to the rest of us.
And their shared beginning, their shared genes turn them into a readymade social experiment. Nature versus nurture. If they turn out to be very different on the inside, despite being exposed to similar paths and experiences, does that mean that nature has the upper hand? What about the ones who are separated at birth and live completely different lives, yet turn out to be uncannily similar in some of their habits and behaviours? Twins fascinate us, I think, because they enable us to speculate about the whole question of what it is that shapes us, what it is that gives us our sense of personal identity.
But what do they think about all this? Both my brother and sister have fraternal twins and I asked my 18-year-old nephews (separately) what it was like to be a twin. I realised from their independent answers that this was a bit like asking someone with two legs what it is like to have two legs! For them, it is simply the norm, there is nothing exceptional about it – it is other people who treat them like a riddle, constantly comparing them, as if they were looking for clues. And yet, for all their rationalism, it was apparent in different ways with each of my nephews, that there is a connection, a sense of responsibility for the other, an empathy or awareness of the other, which – however normal for them – is something beyond the norm for someone who is not a twin.
Jenny and Pippa, my ‘paper twins’, are very different and yet they complete each other, much like Christa Parravini and her sister Cara. When Cara dies of an overdose, Christa writes that it ‘is impossible for surviving twins to differentiate their living body from their twin’s; they become a breathing memorial for their lost half.’ And so it is for Jenny, when her sister disappears. They drew me in, as twins, from the moment they were born in my head. Whether you are a twin or not, I hope you enjoy them!
I’m clocking up the books about twins this year and I’m pleased to say that this powerful novel really did have a surprise in store for me.
Pippa and Jenny are identical twins and as children their lives were firmly entwined but at the point the story opens we meet Jenny far away from home, and Pippa. Jenny has gone to Argentina to teach English to the locals and I have to say, at first I struggled to warm to this young woman who seemed oblivious to others. Jenny is also in therapy although she seems to prefer to play games with the therapist than actually engage but then this is not so different to her interactions with her English friends, none of them know the truth about Jenny either.
This first section of the book was written in an engaging style even though to be honest I had my doubts about whether this was really ‘my kind of book.’ I am so glad I didn’t put what turned out to be a perceptive and intelligent novel aside.
In the second part of the novel we meet Pippa who gives us the background to Jenny’s trip to Argentina by taking us back to childhood. There we find what is at times an upsetting tale, but the interesting part is how the two girls reacted. Even though they were twins the way they reacted was entirely different and almost certainly that reaction led to their adult lives. Whereas Jenny’s tale jumps around in a somewhat disjointed fashion, imitating Jenny’s life, and mindset, Pippa’s story is far more linear, full of emotion alongside the almost memoir style of her story. It doesn’t hurt that Pippa is a booklover and so I’m drawn to this shy and thoughtful young woman, whilst her sister is brash Pippa goes for the almost invisible option in life.
In part three the book undoubtedly gains its psychological thriller but it does far more than that – with this not just being incredibly clever on the surface but opens up some of the bigger questions we all have about identity, love and loss even if we aren’t half of a twin.
Twin Truths can be hard to read in parts but it is truly that overused phrase, a multi-layered story. The assured writing altering during the course of the novel and yet still absolutely clear that it comes from the same pen. It is a clever writer who can purposely write a book that makes you question the veracity of what you are being told and yet convincing you of other elements at the same time. It is rare that this genre has that almost poetic style of writing which I love, but in this book with its ribbon of sadness it lifted the novel, there was simply so much to admire.
This haunting tale has embedded itself on my memory, not bad at all especially since I was really unsure about the content and the characterisation in the opening few pages.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Dome Press for providing me with an advance copy of Twin Truths, this unbiased review is thanks to them and the author Shelan Rodgers for an intriguing and beguiling read.
Shelan’s life is a patchwork of different cultures and landscapes; she was born in northern Nigeria, growing up among the Tiwi – an aboriginal community on an island north of Darwin, and moved to England at the age of eleven. She then travelled to Buenos Aires after graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, and stayed for nine years. Then another chapter in England, followed by six years in Kenya on flower farms by Lake Naivasha and the lower slopes of Mount Kenya.
Now, Shelan lives in Andalucia, Spain. She has learnt in and outside many classrooms around the world, teaching in some of them too. Her professional career has revolved around international education, learning and development, with an emphasis during her time in Kenya on anti-discrimination.
Shelan’s first book, Twin Truths, was published by Cutting Edge Press in 2014, followed by Yellow Room, also in 2015.
As of 2017, The Dome Press acquired the rights to these two titles and Yellow Room was released in October 2017, with Twin Truths following in March 2018.
Social Media & Links
Don’t forget to check out the other posts on this blog tour!