Sunday, 17 January 2016

Beside Myself - Ann Morgan


Helen and Ellie are identical twins – like two peas in a pod, everyone says. 

The girls know this isn't true, though: Helen is the leader and Ellie the follower.

Until they decide to swap places: just for fun, and just for one day.

But Ellie refuses to swap back...


And so begins a nightmare from which Helen cannot wake up. Her toys, her clothes, her friends, her glowing record at school, the favour of her mother and the future she had dreamed of are all gone to a sister who blossoms in the approval that used to belong to Helen. And as the years pass, she loses not only her memory of that day but also herself – until eventually only 'Smudge' is left.

Twenty-five years later, Smudge receives a call from out of the blue. It threatens to pull her back into her sister's dangerous orbit, but if this is her only chance to face the past, how can she resist?

Beside Myself is a compulsive and darkly brilliant psychological drama about family and identity – what makes us who we are and how very fragile it can be.

What did I think?

This book was both sad and creepy, and completely messed with my head.  What started out as a game for Helen and Ellie, with an identity swap, turned into something a lot more sinister when Ellie refused to swap back.  This is the point when Helen's life spirals out of control and I could have cried in frustration for her.

When Ellie becomes Helen she very easily takes on a completely different persona whereas Helen fights against the enforced Ellie-ness at every chance she gets.  I questioned who was who on several occasions, and I even wondered at one point if they weren't twins at all, but perhaps one little girl with a split personality.

The story mainly revolves around Helen, stuck as Ellie, and how the swap affected her life.  It would appear that she would do anything just to feel some kind of emotion and I felt that Ann Morgan had really allowed the reader to experience this emotional turmoil with Helen (now Ellie).  Helen has completely lost her identity and it's little wonder that she refers to herself as Smudge and her sister as H-ellie.

It's only on reading further that we understand why Ellie wanted to leave her identity behind and I raged at the inability of their mother to comfort her girls when they needed her most.  Yes, she had also lost her husband but it's in a mother's nature to protect her young; a task she failed miserably at.  Just exactly how much she failed did not become clear until the end and we got a glimpse into how selfish she really was.

I am amazed that this is Ann Morgan's first novel, as it is so well written and emotional.  I was unable to put this book down and it left me with the thought that a name is only a label and underneath we are who we are, nobody can ever take that away from us no matter how hard they might try.  It's chilling, gripping, compulsive reading - I couldn't take my eyes off the page.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Bloomsbury, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:





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