A hauntingly beautiful, wickedly funny and
devastatingly moving novel of innocence
and dreams that announces the arrival of
a major new talent to the literary scene
The attic room at 26a Waifer Avenue in the lower-middle-class London
neighborhood of Neasden is a sanctuary for identical twins Georgia and Bessi
Hunter. It is a private universe where fantasy reigns as well as an escape from
the sadness and danger that inhabit the floors below. Here the girls share
nectarines and forge their identities -- planning glorious success as the Famous
Flapjack Twins -- well removed from their Nigerian mother, Ida, who, devastated
by homesickness, speaks to the spirits of the family she left behind on another
continent. On occasion Georgia and Bessi's older sister, Bel, and younger
sister, Kemy, are admitted into their broad, bright and fanciful realm, but
never their English father, who nightly bathes the wounds of his own upbringing
in far too much drink.
But innocence lasts for only so long -- and dreams, no matter how vivid and powerful, cannot slow the relentless incursions of the real world. Bel's transition into womanhood brings a very grown-up problem into the house that cannot be pretended away. Kemy's entire existence is redefined overnight by seductive pop-star glitter. And a terrible secret begins to threaten the twins' utopia, setting them on divergent paths toward heartrending resolutions in a world of separateness and solitude.
A work of bold, lyrical beauty, telling detail and compelling characterization -- at once cheerful and thoughtful, playful and profound -- and written in a unique prose style that metamorphoses brilliantly with the passage of time, 26a will surely be one of the most-talked-about novels of this year and many years to come, and its remarkable author, Diana Evans, welcomed gratefully into the highest order of literary achievement.
BEFORE THEY WERE BORN, Georgia and Bessi experienced a moment of indecision. They had been traveling through the undergrowth on a crescent moon night with no fixed destination and no notion of where they were, whether it was a field in Buckinghamshire, the Yorkshire Dales or somewhere along the M1 from Staples Corner to Watford. Night birds were singing. The earth smelled of old rain. Through scratchy bramble they scurried, through holes that became warm tunnels and softly lit underground caves. Their paws pressed sweet berries in the long grass and they sniffed each other's scent to stay together. Soon they began to sense that they were coming to a road. One of those huge open spaces of catastrophe where so many had perished. Squirrels smashed into the tarmac. Rabbits, badgers, walking birdsmurdered and left for the flies. Bessi thought they should risk it and cross, there was nothing coming for miles. But Georgia wasn't sure, because you could ...
If you've enjoyed books that explore the 'tug-of-war between dueling identities' such as Monica Ali's Brick Lane or Zadie Smith's White Teeth, you're likely to find much to enjoy about 26a.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (372 words).
Diana Evans is a graduate of the University of East Anglia's Creative Writing MA, and lives in London. She has published short fiction in a number of anthologies, has worked as a journalist and arts critic for several magazines in the United Kingdom, and writes regularly for the Independent and Stage. She recently won the 2005 Orange Prize for New Writers for 26a (The Orange Prize for Fiction, supported by the Arts Council England, has been awarded annually for 10 years but last year was the first year...
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