BESIDE MYSELF – Ann Morgan

9781408870297Helen and Ellie are twins . They play a game and swop identities for a day – what fun to bamboozle everybody! But at day’s end, one of them refuses to change back to her own identity. And then the novel plunges us into a dizzying narrative that switches between childhood memory and adult turmoil, via the tumultuous highs and lows of manic depression. In the end we don’t really know who’s who, any more, and neither do the twins, or do they? Quite a book. Ann Morgan gives us a brilliant picture of the mayhem that rules the life of a bipolar person. It’s also a picture of a not so happy family life, and the lengths to which one of the characters (and I’m not revealing who it is) will go to secure stability and ‘a happy life’. The reveal, at the end, is shocking.
Having read her previous book, a non-fiction, Reading the World : Confessions of a Literary Explorer which is a scholarly survey of translated world literature, I was very impressed by her first attempt at fiction. The book is a page-turner, well written, and full of surprises, right up to the end pages. It will be interesting to see what Ann Morgan tackles next.
If you enjoy novels about twins, life in modern Britain, and the struggles of a woman trying to forge and sustain her own identity despite enormous difficulties, then read this book.

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