“26a” by Diana Evans

Georgia and Bessi are identical twins, the middle daughters of a Nigerian mother and English father, growing up in Neasden in the 1980’s. We meet them before their birth and are immediately thrown into the unique consciousness the twins inhabit, separating them out from everyone else, even their family. Their mother is desperately missing her own family back in Lagos, while their father is struggling to deal with his own isolation from his family and his Derbyshire upbringing. The family move to Nigeria for a period, where Georgia has a life changing experience, but she is unable to share with anyone, not even her beloved Bessi. Mixed with this, meeting the maternal grandfather, the sisters are told tales of the mythology surrounding twins in Nigeria; stories that will haunt Georgia forever. Back in England, as the girls grow up, Bessi strikes a move for independence, while Georgia attempts to deal with her own inner demons.

A first novel by Diana Evans, 26a deals with family relationships and in particular, the bonds between identical twins. The twins in the book inhabit their own dream world at times, and are able to communicate and visit each other in their dreams and imaginations. The author deals with some of the stories and myths regarding twins, as well as delving into the terrifying world of depression.

Heart-breaking and uplifting in turns, this book not only reveals the inner workings of the relationship of twins, but also of other “couples” – husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons as well as young lovers – showing how any relationship between two people can provide comfort as well as claustrophobia. For a short book (230 pages), the story and the language are both dense and enthralling, and at the end you feel like you’ve read an epic novel. While the magical voyages through the twins thoughts and their final journey together are beautifully written, I personally preferred the real world passages, as I found some of the ideas hard to realise in my own head, although this may be as a result of being an only child myself, and not being able to associate with the sibling relationship, let alone that of a twin. A good book, though, which I enjoyed a lot and will definitely look out for Diana Evans work in the future.

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