The Twins by Saskia Sarginson
I have recently finished The Twins by Saskia Sarginson, I read this book for book group. I had suggested a couple of books that we could read in September, and this was voted for by a clear majority. I suggested this book for a couple of reasons; firstly I found it by looking at the books listed for the ‘Richard & Judy Book Club: Autumn 2013’. Previously book group has read novels from this listing and generally they are very good (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon being particularly excellent). Secondly, one of the book group members and our honorary book group member are twins, and finally it did sound intriguing from the blurb.
The book is, as the title suggests, about twin sisters and jumps between their childhood and adulthood in a few different time periods but concentrating on two particular periods in their lives. One important period of the girls’ lives is when they are young; they are growing up in Suffolk with their ‘hippie’ mother. The novel develops their friendship with twin brothers and how the relationship of the four friends changes and grows. The second period that the book concentrates on is a short period in their adult lives; one of the sisters is working for a magazine in London, juggling a fairly busy life whilst also visiting her sister who is in hospital. The 2nd sister has extreme anorexia and is close to death, remembering their childhood from her hospital bed. The story centralises around an unknown event that occurred when the sisters were young and the book builds up to it, this keeps you guessing as to what has happened. Although this is enough to keep the reader engaged it is also a narrative device that is quite common; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I have read books, where the use of an unknown event to drive the book to a conclusion, that are much better.
Even though the main plot is good, the actual story and its telling is less so. I felt that it concentrated on key parts of the girls’ lives whilst skimming over others; this may be to do with the reflective way in which the earlier story is told. However, I would have like to read more about the sisters as they are later in their lives, especially the anorexia. There is little on what the anorexic sister’s life is like in the hospital and I think the author missed a chance to delve deeper into this disease and create a strong sub-plot that would help bind the past and present within the novel.
Despite my perceived flaws, I still enjoyed the book, I still finished the book (and I have become a lot more harsh over what I will or will not spend time reading over the past few years). I started reading the book slowly but flew through the second half as the novel gained pace and the characters were developed so much more. I also cared about the characters in the book – I wanted to know how things turned out and I wanted to know what had happened to the twins that changed their lives so much. I think the writing was nicely crafted, the descriptive elements of the book well thought through, fitting well within the rest of the novel. The writing did at times read like it was trying a bit too hard to be literary, when it really wasn’t needed; the story and the intrigue is enough to keep the reader going.
I wouldn’t necessarily urge people to rush out and read it, but I would say to anyone that is currently reading it and not quite sure whether or not to persevere, that they should. Not much of a recommendation I know, but there are a lot worse books out there!