In March, we introduced a new service: the Reading Doctor. Read more about Dr Louise here. And do feel free to request further prescriptions, as needed!
Prescription #20: Which novels explore the special magic of being a twin?
The bond between twins is often represented in fiction as a much more intense version of the usual sibling relationship. Associated with metaphors of extension and reflection, mirroring and doubling, identical twins offer further possibilities to a literary plot, of misidentification and misunderstanding, of substitution and deceit.
· A fictionalised account by Maggie O’Farrell of the short life of William Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, deals poignantly with a parent’s grief at losing a child, and a sister’s grief at losing her twin.
· Viola and Sebastian are the twins in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night whose separation after a shipwreck – each believing the other to be dead – sets off a chain of complex misidentifications and deceptions which must be resolved before their happy reunion.
· Two sets of twins provided the antics for the 72 books, as well as the much-treasured Christmas Annuals, featuring the Bobbsey Twins, the first published in 1904 and written under the pseudonym of Laura Lee Hope.
· The Marshall twins are two peas in a pod, two cherries on a stem, in Emma Neale’s Double Take, who must separate from each other in order to find themselves.
· Identical twins with mirrored internal organs are the protagonists in Audrey Niffeneger’s literary ghost story, Her Fearful Symmetry.
· The Booker Prize-winning The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, explores the childhood experiences of fraternal twins Rahel and Esthappen within the wreckage of their wider family.
· Inhabiting the unique world of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Sisterland are Kate and Violet, twins with psychic abilities which are embraced by one and denied by the other.
· Darin Strauss fictionalises the lives of Chang & Eng Bunker in his novel, conjoined twins who travelled from Siam to find fame in America, get caught up in the American Civil War, marry sisters, and father over 20 children.
· In Wally Lamb’s novel I Know This Much is True, Dominick’s twin brother Thomas suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and his health comes to define both their lives.
· Alexander Dumas portrays the Man in the Iron Mask as the identical twin of Louis XIV in the final instalment of The d’Artagnan Romances, concealed from birth by his father in order to secure the throne for the good of France.