Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
In this haunting tale of innocence lost, Diana Evans evokes, with
unforgettable vividness, the wonders and terrors of childhood and growing up.
Identical twins Bessi and Georgia Hunter create a private universe in the attic
room at 26a Waifer Avenue in a drab, lower-middle-class section of London. Here
they sit back to back when making important decisions and hatching dreams (will
their parents get divorced? how will they create their flapjack empire?) and
share an intimacy, a mystical sense of connection, that they feel will bind them
forever. But theirs is not an innocence immune to the tensions arising from
their Nigerian mother's distracted nostalgia for the home she left behind and
their British father's drunken rages. When the Hunter family returns to Sekon,
Nigeria, Georgia has a terrifying encounter with a night watchman that plunges
her into a world of inner separation, self-consciousness, and painful secrecy
and that pushes the novel to its harrowing conclusion. At once playful and
serious, magical and real, 26a explores the ties that bind family members and
extend from this world to the beyond.
Questions for Discussion
In a dream William Gladstone tells Georgia that "one day you will see that
there are no answers, only the places we make" [p. 30]. What does he mean,
exactly? In what ways are placeand displacementimportant in the novel?
Why doesn't Georgia tell Bessi about being sexually assaulted by Sedrick?
Might her life have turned out differently if she hadn't kept this awful secret
Is Georgia's suicide attributable chiefly to her sexual assault? What
other causes might have contributed to it? How does the attack change her?
In what ways does the deep connectionthe emotional telepathy, the oneness
in twonessbetween Bessi and Georgia change over the course of the novel?
What does 26a suggest about gender relationsabout the differing ways men
and women view sex and love? How are women treated by men in the novel?
Why does Evans include the story, told by Ida's father, of the "evil
twins" Ode and Onia [p. 76-77]? In what ways does Bessi and Georgia's story
parallel the folk tale? Are we meant to see Georgia's death in mystical or
How is Evans able to recreate so vividly the feel of childhoodall the
whimsical imaginings, grand plans, secret dreams and fears that children have?
Bel describes their father as a "repressed male animal" who didn't "answer
his demons . . . And now they're eating him up" [p. 116]. Is she right? How does
this statement explain Aubrey's behavior? Does Georgia answer her demons?
When Jay asks Bel if Nne-Nne is a "real gran," Bel explains that when
people get lonely they sometimes imagine a special person who will make them
feel better. "If you imagine it hard enough, it becomes a real thing" [p. 163].
In what ways does 26a demonstrate both the powers and the dangers of the
In what ways can 26a be read as an extended meditation on the theme of
connection and separation?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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