The trouble with twins

Cover of Her Fearful SymmetryI am not a big fan of books that feature twins. Now read that sentence again carefully before you get all huffy. In fact, I love the few twins I have met; it is the use of twins as a plot device of which I am suspicious.

And what a lot of books fall back on twinniness. Have a look at this library list of 212 adult novels which feature twins. Here’s what I don’t like about twinny books:

  • I disdain books where the second twin is sprung on me near the end of the story and is the one who actually committed the murder/ theft/ betrayal – take your pick.
  • I am bored by books where the twins look exactly alike but behave completely differently, one all sweetness and light and the other a nasty piece of work.
  • I hate the deception played out in novels where the twins trick people through posing as one another.

Cover of SisterlandYet I have read some very good twin themed books:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger involves not one but two sets of twins. Set in London opposite Highgate Cemetery, it becomes unforgettably creepy. Life After Death takes on a whole new slant in this very good read.

Sisterland is a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld. It stars two identical looking twins who aren’t at all alike. One of them has psychic powers that enable her to predict an earthquake in their hometown area. It could have been an awful book, but Sittenfeld is a very accomplished novelist – you are safe in her hands.

Christopher Bohjalian gives us The Night Strangers. It features twins, an old house, a plane crash that killed 39 people, an unhinged pilot father and a coven of strange ladies in the nearby village.

And then Cover of The Night Strangersthere is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Karen recently reviewed this excellent book – have a look at her blog post. Suffice it to say that this is one of the few books that I have read twice – in my entire life. It is that good.

If you’ve read this far hoping for help with breastfeeding your newborn twins, getting them to sleep at the same time or dilemmas around developing their little identities – there is loads of stuff for you as well. And if you are a creative mum of twins who lives in a crumbling Victorian mansion (preferably on a moor) and have named your girls Violet and Carmine – give serious consideration to writing a book. You’ve got all the right ingredients!

Does anyone out there feel the same as I do about twinny books, or am I about to be shot down by flaming double-barrelled guns?

5 thoughts on “The trouble with twins

  1. Robyn 13 January 2015 / 9:18 am

    Roberta we are kindred (or should that be twin?) spirits. Three of the books on your list are among my top reads of all time. Her Fearful Symmetry lead to Highgate Cemetery becoming a must visit if I ever see London again. Sisterland is funny, sad and just a great read and The Thirteenth Tale was a stay awake as long as it takes to finish it effort. I am putting the Chris Bohjalian on my For Later list as we speak.

  2. robertafsmith 13 January 2015 / 10:58 am

    So pleased someone else feels the same way! Seems like twinny books can (like the little girl who had a little curl) be very very good or very very bad.

  3. cols57 13 January 2015 / 2:16 pm

    Loved those books too. Her Fearful Symmetry did spur me to visit Highgate Cemetery Robyn. It was wonderful, especially atmospheric in the depths of winter with icicles of rain tricking down my collar.

  4. alinaccl 13 January 2015 / 4:11 pm

    Totally agreed re: twin books (both good and bad), but I did a double take when I saw that you don’t re-read! Do you own any books? Or only ever borrow from the library?

    • robertafsmith 13 January 2015 / 4:34 pm

      I own an embarrassment of books! Quite a lot of my books are non-fiction and those are well used. I also belong to a few book groups, so I do have many fiction books too (plus borrowing from the library!). I do dip into the fiction from time to time, but I am not really a re-reader!

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