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Chang and Eng Paperback – May 1, 2001
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This fictionalized version of their story is narrated by the stronger, more circumspect twin, Eng, who must continually urge Chang to restrain his tears, his burning sexual desires, and his fear of the King of Siam (who has promised to "kill the double-child, the bad omen"). From the beginning, Strauss masterfully delineates the brothers' differences. Yet it's the porous nature of their relationship that will fascinate readers even more. The twins, after all, must always sleep face to face, connected by a fleshy band and the knowledge of their shared monstrosity. The fact that they are neither "he" nor "we" allows the author myriad opportunities for wordplay and psychological riddles. Does Chang love his brother, or does he love himself? When he hates his brother, is it only a piece of himself he is hating? Might the connecting band be its own entity, a pet that the brothers must tend to and feed? When they were children, Eng recalls, the band
was about two inches long, and Chang loved it. He called it Tzon, or ripe banana, and wailed if ever I mentioned severing it. It was more taut then, and would crackle like an old knee when we inched closer or farther apart (no one had any idea the thing would grow with us, and one day allow lateral positioning). I often fidgeted with a stretch of brown leathery skin--a hairy birthmark--midway across it, and also a little brown dot, a charming dinky island that lived, insolently, just free from the shoreline of the larger birthmark.The novel's agile prose is like a smooth, strong current, pulling the twins away from their awkward lives. To his great credit, Strauss spends very little time dwelling on Chang and Eng as monsters, and their freak-show existence surfaces only in short, painful flashbacks--a jeering interlude that the narrator would sooner forget. And Eng's voice is a compelling one, full of quips, insecurities, and jealousy. Indeed, at some moments he seems like a standard-issue Renaissance man, reading Shakespeare in the afternoon, dreaming about pretty women, recounting his extensive travels. Yet the tragic fact remains: no matter how many countries this cosmopolitan visits, he will never have a room to himself. --Emily White --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The twins had completely different personalities. Eng, the book's narrator, was the more reserved of the two. He spoke accent less English and read constantly, frequently annoyed by Chang's immigrant-English and cheerful banter with the crowds. Chang may never have learned how to use the verb to be, but his slyly clever jokes and warm smile made him the more popular of the twins, and seemingly the most contented with his lot. Eng always yearned for separation but Chang did not, even when the two were in continual conflict. Chang drank, and Eng was a spokesman for the Temperance Union. Because Chang dared make his feelings known to a small-town Southern girl, the twins married-something that neither had ever dreamed of-and might have been happy if Eng had not fallen in love with Chang's wife. And because Chang died, Eng had to follow him too soon.
There is enough historical detail in Chang and Eng to set the novel in the proper period: Strauss is not out to write a piece overly heavy in historical detail. It is the characterizations that draw the reader into Chang and Eng's circle and make this book so memorable. Don't miss this book. I wish Darin Strauss every success, and look forward to what he writes next.
In writing about the twins whose life was supported by being a carnie show act Strauss is sensitive to the concepts of how people out of the groove we consider "normal" relate. These twins are wholly believable in their interaction with each other, with an estranged society, with their two wives. At first the curiosity factor may be the reason for buying and reading this book. And for those readers who enjoy a sojourn into the bizarre, the incredible, this book supplies all that. By alternating chapters of the twins' childhood to manhood histories with chapters devoted to their adult status as husbands and fathers this fascinating book charges our interest to read until the inevitable slides under our eyes. Very fine writing, this, and a terrific lesson in human kindness and tolerance.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A moving, fictional depiction of the lives of Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous Siamese Twins. It is a novel but reads much like an autobiography, told from Eng's point of view. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Nancy A
I prefer novels to documentaries and this story, I believe, gives a realistic view and convincing scenario of the life of these conjoined brothers. Read morePublished 3 months ago by DSS
Chang and Eng, the famous Siamese twins, were born in Siam (now Thailand) to a poor fisherman. They learned quickly how to adapt to one another and even to thrive. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Mary E. Young
Chang and Eng is an interesting attempt to fictionalize the lives of the original 'Siamese' Twins. Following two prevailing storylines - the twins birth to stardom, and the twins... Read morePublished on November 13, 2013 by T. Edmund
Darin Strauss has written an account of the life of the Siamese twins, Chang and Eng; starting with a few basic known facts, he has woven a richly detailed and imagined story of... Read morePublished on September 3, 2013 by E. Holden
I always wanted to read this when it first came out, but I forgot about it until I saw it at a library sale. I'm glad I picked it up! This is a wonderful historical fiction. Read morePublished on December 20, 2012 by Me reads
The topic was a fascinating one and I'm sure many folks have wondered what it would be like to have to be in the constant company of someone else for your entire life. Read morePublished on December 19, 2012 by Jaton'