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The Other Twin Paperback – November 15, 2017
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Now this book does touch on some very sensitive subjects. We begin with the shocking announcement to Poppy that her younger sister India, who she hasn’t really spoken to in years, has chosen to take her own life. Drawing Poppy back to her home town of Brighton, she simply cannot accept that the young and vibrant girl she once knew would have changed so much that she would ever contemplate suicide. The impact upon Poppy’s family is heart wrenching, the emotion Hay captures on the page as she describes their mother’s slow descent into a mental breakdown is beautifully and poignantly captured. We are also faced with Poppy’s personal dilemma and conflicted feelings as one of the key reasons she stayed away from Brighton, her former lover Matthew, is brought back into her life in a most dramatic and emotionally challenging way. This re-acquaintance, this conflict, plays around with her emotions, threatening to derail her investigations when she has scarcely begun but she is determined and it is obvious she will not give up so easily or allow herself to become too distracted.
I have to be honest and say that I had mixed emotions about Poppy initially. I couldn’t figure her out. What was the big secret which kept her away from her home for all these years, the one which drove her and her sister apart? She is a strong character, with some likeable qualities for sure, but there was a secret there. Something which she was not sharing. Something which for whatever reason led to absolute mistrust and hatred from people she had once called friends. Did this make her an unreliable narrator? Maybe, maybe not. You’ll have to read and judge for yourself. I didn’t not trust her exactly, but I admit to having to keep an open mind. I did admire her tenacity and resolve though and for me Hay created a very believable and relatable character, very important as this is the character who needed to carry the whole book. The one we had to trust to lead us on our journey.
But although the story is told mainly from Poppy’s perspective as she navigates the labyrinth of lies which have been constructed around India’s death, there is a second party involved in the telling of this most twisted tale. An anonymous voice. A man whose voice is filled with poison and hatred towards anyone that he considers different. And in a place like Brighton, he can find different on every corner. The story is based heavily around the LGBTQIA community, something which our mystery voice clearly hates, a message – the prejudice, the disgust – which practically thrusts forth from the page as he watches them go about their lives. Whilst Brighton may pride itself as a very liberal and free city, not all of its residents agree, although the true root cause of this anger and hatred may not be as obvious as it seems.
And then there is the mysterious Jenny, India’s friend. It is apparent from Poppy’s brief meetings with Jenny that she knows more of what happened to India than she will say, and she also knows the truth of the blog which India used to run, one which is closed down just as Poppy starts to uncover some vital details pertaining to her sister’s final months. But just who this Jenny is and why she was meeting India in a Gay club is not quite so clear. And what of ‘The Other Twin’ that the title refers to? Well this will become clearer as you read on, because it is finding Jenny and solving this puzzle which will lead Poppy, and the reader, to the most startling discoveries of all.
It is very clear from reading the understanding the author has around the subjects of social media and blogging, and the impacts, both positive and negative that they can have upon a persons life. We are shown, perhaps too simply, that India used her blog to create tension and conflict, but as all things social media related, the story is never quite so black and white. And Hay’s characterisations, both of the LGBTQIA characters and the prejudices of those surrounding them, are very acutely observed.
This is more than simply a story about the effects of prejudice and suicide. There is a dark and twisted mystery at the heart, one which runs through it from first page to last. It is also a story of family, of separation and of loss. But most of all, it is an exploration of the devastating impact that lies, anger, control and deception can have on a family. The ending is poignant and moving, the sense of acceptance and overall of freedom which emanates from the page a truly beautiful thing.
Another cover from Orenda Books that is utterly eye-catching and well designed.
Poppy’s sister India has jumped to her death from a bridge in Brighton and Poppy immediately decamps down to her mother’s house in the seaside resort of Brighton, to be with mum and her partner Tim. She just cannot believe it and although the sisters have not really been in contact over recent time, Poppy knows that suicide was just not part of her sister’s character.
Everyone is in such shock, no-one is thinking straight. So Poppy is drawn to look deeper into her sister’s death. Matthew is a young man with whom she once lived, a relationship that had a tricky ending, yet she approaches him for background on her sister’s life. Both Matthew and his own sister are the off-spring of a nouveau-riche couple, the Spences – with their own noveau family crest – who own the Obelisk, a hotel complex that towers over Brighton. Her own history with the Spence family muddies already dark and sulphurous waters, and the further Poppy probes, the more she is rebuffed. Dead ends are everywhere, it seems.
Chancing upon her sister’s blog, she pays to have India’s computer unlocked. There she discovers more evidence that India’s death is not all it seems. The author sets her story very much in the present day of the internet and Social Media age, it’s sharply observed and stark in its reality. Does Jenny, active in the blog dialogue discovered on India’s computer, really exist and if so, where might she be found?
The novel has a good pace and an interesting ending. The author has a creative, confident and sound writing style. Brighton is certainly a good backdrop, with colour, references to the LGBTQ community which has a strong in the town…mention of the Lanes, the beach… and the darkness of the Winter months, appropriate to this rather bleak storyline.
The book has received many accolades, there are inumerous 5* reivews out there. For me it didn’t quite hit the high notes which it clearly has for others. The aspect that didn’t work for me is the added texture of the narrative in the form of the bit part players who have been consigned to “type” – often with ugly attributes – who are woven into the story. Women on a hen party fall over and are sick – for sure, an everyday occurrence but perhaps hardly worth noting; Cerise, another character “grabs the label ‘chav’ and wears it as a badge of honour“. These set the context but felt just a little contrived and to my mind didn’t aid progression of the plot.
Poppy, although very much adult, has some very immature ways of being and thinking, and sometimes – (especially with the short chapters, which I liked, I hasten to add, it gave a crisp feel to the narrative and reflected the channel-hopping nature of the internet which is a very strong theme in the book) – there was a slight patina of the Young Adult genre overlaying the story. Overall, an interesting plot from an author who has talent, who handles sensitive topics with aplomb, and clearly goes for hard hitting plots.
It will be really interesting to see where she goes next.
Most recent customer reviews
Poppy returns to Brighton after many years to deal with the aftermath of her sister’s apparent...Read more