Sunday, January 9, 2011

BOOK: 26a by Diana Evans

26a by Diana Evans

Orange January (New Author Prize 2005); What's in a Name 4: number in title

26A is the number outside the attic room in a London suburb where Bessie and Georgia, twins, share a room. They retire there to make decisions (should their parents divorce? how will they make their flap-jack empire? ) and share their twinness. Other interesting characters in this well-written book include younger sister Kemy, obsessed with Michael Jackson, older sister Bel who inherited her mother's Nigerian understanding of the mystical, their English father who battles Mr Hyde with his drinking, and Ida, their Nigerian mother who ran away from her village and ended up in England but still talks to her mother everyday, spirit wise.

They say the youngest child is the strongest child, because she had to make you love her, when you were tired, when you had loved the other first. p 200

This book begins with the marriage of Charles and Diana and ends soon after Diana's death. I thought this was a very good way of anchoring the time, and the feelings in England as the story takes place. Evans also does a very good job of immersing the reader in the world of the twins, who start off as young girls, and end up as young women. Their twinness, along with the Nigerian folklore, introduces a mystical, magical element that gradually becomes the norm in the book. I'm not usually a fan of non-realistic events, but Evans brought me gradually into the girls world, and by the last third, I loved it. The tone of the story changed by that point, but I thought it was really well done as we see the world through Georgia's eyes, and she is going through a very bad time.

Evans won the New Authors Prize in 2005 from the Orange Prize, and she takes risks with her writing, dealing with depression and delving into the mystical, but I think she pulled it off. It's a book I might not like some days, but this day I did. Evans' ability to put the reader in her characters' minds, very different characters and cover an expanse of time was well done.