Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Review - Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

One thing I can safely say from the start of this review is that Beside Myself by Ann Morgan proved to be quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I mean that in a good way. Whilst it turned out to be quite different from what I expected it to be I thought that it was a brilliantly clever, gripping and insightful novel. I most certainly do not regret reading it and can’t quite believe it’s taken me this long to finally do so! 

This is a novel about identical twins, Helen and Ellie, who couldn’t be more different from eachother - Helen is the dominant and assertive twin who seems to excel at life whilst Ellie seems to find things just a little bit more difficult. One day, when they are just six years old Helen and Ellie decide to play a trick by changing their clothes and hairstyles to make people think that Helen is Ellie and vice versa. The swap isn’t meant to last for long but Ellie quite enjoys being Helen and doesn’t want to swap back, something which doesn’t please Helen in the slightest. With Ellie refusing to tell the truth, Helen can’t convince anyone that she’s not Ellie so that’s the way things stay with drastic consequences for both girls. 

One thing that really made this book quite different from anything that I have ever read before is that it’s a book about twins and the relationship that exists between them. I found it extremely interesting to read of this throughout the novel, discovering so much about the differences that existed between both Helen and Ellie, seeing how they both adapted to the situation they found themselves in. Whilst we get a good insight into the life of the twin who was originally named Ellie, the book is told entirely from the perspective of the twin who was originally named Helen. Given that Helen was considered to be the dominant twin I feel that this is something that fits and works really well. 

Throughout the novel, so much happened to the twins and whilst there were a few times that made me laugh there were other times that I found to be truly heartbreaking, so Beside Myself certainly made for extremely powerful reading. This is a story that alternates between the past and the present, each of which is told in a very different manner. Whilst at first this became quite confusing and it took me a while to adapt to Ann’s style of writing, I soon found that it became very easy to recognise which narrative was which. Overall I found Beside Myself to be quite a complex novel which blended a number of different themes, including those of identity and mental health, in an expert manner. 

As a book that raised a few questions as it progressed which helped to keep me interested and keen to find out what would happen next, I’m really glad I read this novel and persevered with it when I at first struggled to get used to the way in which it was written. Whilst this may not have been the happiest book I’ve ever read it was a unique, well-constructed and sensitively written debut novel. I would certainly read more by Ann Morgan in the future!