The Twins by Saskia Sarginson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Two identical twins, raised by a "hippy dippy" mother in England - what could possibly go wrong? Well, let me tell you! Back in those "hippy dippy" days, Viola and Isolte live in a commune in Wales and then in a relatively primitive hut in Sussex, are homeschooled for a while and then join the village kids in grammar school, and generally run wild. Food is scrounged from the forest and transportation is on foot or Mom's Vespa (with sidecar). They meet two identical twin boys, John and Michael, and the four of them play in a nearby Martello tower and explore the woods. Then Mom meets Frank, an inoffensively bland guy with a babied daughter, Polly. Viola and Isolte aren't happy at the changes to their lives... All this is told in a series of flashback/dreams by Viola and Issy from a remove of over a decade. In the 1980s, Issy works at a fashion magazine and Viola is in hospital with anorexia (she needs to gain 28lbs minimum for them to consider releasing her). The end to their forest idyll came with the suicide of their mother, Rose (you'll have to read to find out what drove her to that point).
At times it's difficult figuring out whose memories or story we're following: is it Issy remembering, or Viola dreaming? Perhaps that's because as identical twins, raised in the way they were, their memories are so intertwined up to the time they leave the forest for London. As we piece together their story the voices do become slightly more distinct and by the end each stands alone.
I did wonder why this was set in the 70s and 80s, and why AIDS was dragged into the story (it's a very small digression, but still - was it there just so it clearly sets the time?). It's a great way for authors to avoid modern technology, but I'm getting a little annoyed with that.
ARC provided by author.