5 Books About Twins

I love books about twins so much I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favourites.

  1. Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews
    This was the book that started my love affair with twins in literature and is the story of 4 young children locked in an attic by their Grandmother. Their father has died and the children are living in their gothic grandparent’s house waiting for the Mother to successfully acquire some money from her strict Grandfather who detests the children. Gradually their mother visits less often and the children are largely left to their own devices. This is a classic YA novel with gothic undertones and themes of greed and betrayal.
  2. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
    This book is in my Top 10 favourite books of all time. Vida Winter is a successful author and has decided to tell her life story now that she’s dying. She’s given many interviews over the course of her life, but each time she tells a different story. This time she’s serious about revealing the dark truth about her past and Margaret Lea has agreed to be her biographer. But it won’t be easy.
    The novel makes countless delicious references to stories, books and reading and I revelled in the language.
    Here’s a sample from the book: “Do they sense it, these dead writers, when their books are read? Does a pinprick of light appear in their darkness? Is their soul stirred by the feather touch of another mind reading theirs? I do hope so.
    Naturally the plot includes twins and the wonderfully haunted Angelfield House forms the backdrop of the novel in a charming and menacing way. In addition to being a brilliant book, The Thirteenth Tale is also major BBC film starring Vanessa Redgrave and Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones).
  3. Beside Myself by Ann Morgan
    Beside Myself is a psychological thriller and suspenseful read looking at themes of identity and mental illness. Twin sisters Helen (domineering) and Ellie (submissive) play a game one afternoon to swap identities, but Ellie won’t change back. What happens next is an ever growing divide between the sisters and the subsequent decline of one of them. As the consequences of the game last a lifetime, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have done in Helen’s situation
  4. A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne
    Continuing the suspense theme, A Dark Dividing is about conjoined twins born 100 years apart and how they’re connected. Alternating between the past and the present, and across 3 different periods, the novel reveals a number of shocking secrets as it progresses.
    Author Sarah Rayne loves to include a creepy building at the centre of her books and this time it was the suitably scary Mortmain House. Originally used as a workhouse for men and women who would otherwise die of starvation, the living conditions at the house were horrendous. Children abandoned at birth or born to families unable to care for them all ended up here and suffered terrible treatment as a consequence.
    As the title suggests, A Dark Dividing is a dark read and I enjoyed finding out how all the characters were connected.
  5. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
    Another gothic novel featuring twins in a creepy estate is historical fiction novel The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. Edie is a book publisher and when her mother receives a long lost letter originally posted in 1941 from Milderhurst Castle, her curiosity is piqued. Her mother is secretive about her past, but Edie finds out she was billeted at the castle for a short time during the war.
    Edie visits the crumbling castle and meets the three elderly sisters residing there. Twins Percy and Saffy live together with their younger sister Juniper and the reasons they each chose to stay at the castle after the war and why they never married or had children inform the plot. Something happened to bond the sisters together for life and it was a thrill to discover. The characters love to read, write and tell stories, and all shared a love of books. The reference to the library in the castle made me weak at the knees.

I hope you enjoyed this list, but I’ve just noticed that almost all the twins in my list are female. I can’t even think of a novel with male twins, can you? Further reading: The Ice Twins by SK Tremayne and The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell.

The Worst Mothers in Literature [cont.]

Now before anyone goes banging on the blog door and screaming: “Your choices aren’t literature!”, what I really mean is The Worst Mothers in Fiction. But ‘Fiction’ makes it sound less real, and the interesting thing I find about women portrayed in these books, particularly, is that the characteristics of these evil or amoral mothers must in some way reflect our real fears – otherwise we wouldn’t respond to these books the way we do, right?

When I was 12 or 13, I chose a book from my mum’s bookshelf that I had been too ‘chicken’ to pick up before, mainly for the ’70s black covers and the innocent wide-eyed beings surrounded by ghostly mists. Flowers in the Attic was my first venture into Virginia Andrews’ crazy, messed-up world of dysfunctional families and I was totally hooked. Corinne Dollanganger is my second pick for Worst Mother – a sparkling, blonde, blue-eyed beauty who is the ‘perfect’ maternal figure for her four Dollanganger children to worship. That is, until Daddy dies and the money from the million-dollar mansion is gone. Rather than consider working or asking friends for help, Corinne hotfoots it back to her parent’s multi-million dollar estate with kidlets in tow, a place she vowed never to return to after her own father kicked her out years before. What appears to have turned her desperate mind to returning to the estate is a letter confirming that Corinne’s father is sick doesn’t have much longer to live. It is only when he dies, that Corinne will receive the inheritance due to her, provided that she doesn’t have any offspring with the man that caused the family feud all those years ago. Of course, Corinne has had four children to this man, so she decides to hide the children in the attic with the help of her incredibly strict mother (the children’s maternal grandmother) and wait for her father to die before they can come out of hiding. Days turn into months, months turn into years, and the ‘Flowers’ in the attic lie wilting and eventually forgotten by their own mother, who has been seduced by the promise of money and the return to the prestigious family fold. Flowers in the Attic haunted me for many years to come, particularly the vision of the children eating the powdered donuts laced with arsenic. It’s why I can’t eat cinnamon donuts to this day.

My third and final award for Worst Mother in literature goes to a character in Neil Gaiman’s fantasy, Coraline. Namely, Coraline’s Other Mother, whom Coraline meets upon discovery of a door that leads to a parallel version of her home and family. Coraline’s real mother and father are terribly busy with household chores and other work, and don’t really pay as much attention to Coraline as Coraline would like, so the Other Mother with her awesome ‘Breakfast for Dinner’ meals and amazing gifts and general showering of affection on Coraline is a welcome distraction. Until Coraline is tired and wants to go back to her real home…that’s when things start to get a little bit sinister. “But this IS your real home,” says the Other Mother. Because everything IS better there, provided Coraline is happy to have buttons sewn in place of her own eyes…

Uggh. Too creepy.

We all love to hate on mothers in literature, it seems! I’m sure there is at least one well-known book out there, however, where the father is the evil-doer. And I intend to find it!