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  • 26a
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 1 April 2005
A complete list of books dealing with twins and the special bond between them would probably take longer to read than most novels, but few of the novels on that list could give such an impression of what it is like to experience that bond, or be as enjoyable to read, as '26a'.
Evans' novel tells the story of the Hunter family, and especially the twins Bessi and Georgia. We follow them from childhood to adulthood, in Neasden and Nigeria, and through the different experiences of their lives. One of the impressive aspects of this novel (and there are many) is the way that Evans gives the reader such an impression of what it means to be a twin, not by characters telling us but by showing us the way the twins think and interact so that we can see and feel it for ourselves.
But it would be wrong to give the impression that the focus is entirely on the twins. The rest of the Hunter family all have their own character journeys which are extremely well handled. You might not like each member of the family all the time, but they are still compelling and real. All of the incidental characters in the novel also leave a strong imprint on the mind of the reader, even if their appearance is fleeting, such is Evans' skill with swift characterisation.
Another way in which '26a' is impressive is the way it balances all the different elements. In particular, the way that comedy is mixed with tragedy so that rather than clashing they actually enhance each other. '26a' is a book that is frequently funny, but which also deals with the more distressing side of life - and Evans shows herself equally adept at both.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about '26a' is that it is a debut novel. If you didn't know this when you read it you could be forgiven for not realising, such is the assurance and the strength of voice Evans displays. Her prose is sharp, funny and moving, her characters convincing and compelling, and her future very bright indeed. I strongly recommend you read this novel now, before you're accused of band-wagon jumping when she really takes off - because she will.
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on 22 May 2007
26a is a story about a mixed White/Nigerian family growing up in Britain and briefly in Nigeria in the 1980s and 1990s. The characterisation is deep, emotional and superb and one is really drawn in to feel empathy with each character in some way. The prose is beautiful and the pace is constant with a good rhythm. I understand from another reviewer that this is partly autobiographical which makes the story only more impacting. In summary, this is an excellent read and gives the reader a great insight into the lives and thoughts of four girls growing up in late 20th century Britian but my only warning is that this is a tragedy. It is incredibly sad and the descriptions of onsetting mental illness/depression and its outcome at the end are poignant and perhaps too upsetting for some.
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on 18 April 2006
I had never heard of this book before I found it on a shelf in Smiths, but after reading the back cover I thought that i would give it a go. It took a few pages to get into but once i was passed that i was hooked! The synopsis doesn't do the book justice. Each character is totally believable with their own gentle warmth and personality and with the writers use of language and description form a brilliant image in your mind and a place in your heart. It wasnt long before the unusual conversations and childish thinking become second nature to me and I understood exactly what they meant. However in a book that triumphs in so many ways the real storyline winner is the relationship between the twins, Bessie and Georgia, so magnificently told. Throughout the book you cannot get away from the strength and intensity of love that the twins have for one another. From the opening pages about their birth right through to the last sentence the feeling of 'twoness in oneness' is omnipotent. Anyone who manages to read the last few pages without crying their eyes out(as i did) cannot be human. In a nutshell this book tells the story of childhood innocence, adolescent realisation, family dynamics, differences in cultures and the breakdown of a mind with perfect perception and detail.What more can i say...this book is pure gold.
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on 29 March 2007
Words cannot express the emotions that this book stirred in me. I read this book with such a heavy heart and a lump in my throat. Diane Evans so accurately describes and explains all the emotions that Georgia and Bessi experience, taking the reader along with them. I cannot explain how much the 2 characters became a part of my world whilst I was reading this book. I genuinely felt fear and frustration for Georgia and ached to be able to help her. Never before has a book touched me or affected me so much. This is the most moving and emotional book I have ever read! I would urge everyone I know to read this book and I defy anyone not to love it.

I read many great books in 2006 but this was by far my favourite book of the year - if not ever! Diane Evans certainly deserves every award she won for this book.
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on 10 November 2006
I've read the 3 or 4 reviews below mine and find that I agree with both the positive and negative comments on Diana Evans' first novel. I read this book in the summer and found that after the first 2 or 3 chapters I lacked the motivation to continue. I was under quite a bit of time pressure at the time I was going to be attending a private reading being given by Diana herself the next day, but I just could not find the motivation to continue.

So I attended the reading having only read the first couple of chapters, and fired a few questions at the very withdrawn author who was neither very eloquent nor admirable as authors go. She didn't impress me, but the one thing that struck me about her was how withdrawn and distant she seemed from her surroundings. I left feeling for some odd reason as though she had a lot more to give, and committed myself to finishing her novel.

Once I broke past the half way mark I honestly found it difficult to let go of. The pain behind the very personal story she tells is laid bare and I admire her so much for the courage to use her own life experience as the basis for a first novel. Diana said the book was inspired by the death of her twin and that she just wanted to tell their story. I feel that possibly explains why the book is so difficult to follow or be gripped by at the beginning, but then takes on a concrete and emotive form when she gets to the actual events that inspired her to write in the 1st place.

One criticism I must add though is that Diana attempts to evoke the supernatural in the book by using Nigerian folklore and spirituality. I don't agree with this method of "publisher-pleasing", as I see it. From meeting her, it was plain for everyone to see that her connection with Nigeria was so appallingly weak, and one attendee lunged at her with this question that had been burning on my lips: "Why does so much of your novel involve a place about which you know and have experienced relatively nothing?!" I found it alarming that she couldn't be bothered to conduct even the tiniest bit of research on Nigeria when choosing to set part of the novel in it. That she would sink so low as to create a fictional district ("Sekon"... such a place never existed!!) in the city of Lagos, whilst maintaining remarkable factual accuracy in her descriptions of North London where the bulk of the novel is set, removes every trace of authenticity, uniqueness or ethnicity from this work.

To conclude though, I must say that I urge anyone thinking of reading this book to give it a go. Persevere and you will be overwhelmed (and reduced to tears like I was) when you get to the more meaningful parts of Diana's very personal story.
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on 25 March 2006
After finishing 26a this afternoon I still haven't been able to move beyond it. The characters are rich (while some go through stages of being a bit annoying, just as in life) and the manner of experiencing life that the twins in particular share - made reading the book an experience in itself.
When the book closed in the end I thought that it had been perfectly written (this I've never thought before) - and picked it up and started reading it again...
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on 8 August 2014
This book touched me deeply. It is beautifully written, witty and melancholic. It is about sisters, twins, multicultural families, effects of abuse and depression. I have just finished reading this book and know it is one of those that will haunt me.
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on 19 April 2006
I read this book not knowing what to expect. I had heard good things, but the first few pages did not seem to fulfil the promise. However, I carried on and was suddenly swept up into the magical imaginary world of the characters. The relationship between the twins and the world around them is the highight of the novel. This is not just a meandering into the world of the imagination. Serious issues are raised, such as the effect of a traumatic attempted rape on a child, mental illness and depression and the search for identity. The ending really moved me, I had to put the book down several times to grab a tissue, but that was the only reason I put this down. Really moving and wonderful, I think Diana Evans has created something special.
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on 28 June 2007
Story about the Hunter family living at no 26a in Neasden, originating from Nigeria.

Mum finds it hard to settle in England,husband is a character and the children are adorable.

The changes that the twins go through as they grow up also showing us about the bond that twins can share especially when they decide to do thier own thing. Also focusing on the other members of the family.

Very easy to read, with pages full of comedy and a little bit that will make you shed a tear!

Great book !!!
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on 9 July 2012
26a is a colourful story of four girls growing up in Neasdon, near Brixton, with their Nigerian mother, Ida, who is like a fish out of water in this strange, cold country, and their Derbyshire father, Aubrey. The story is told mostly from the point of view of twin girls Bessi and Georgia from their birth into adulthood, with snippets of their parents histories juxtaposed alongside.

Bessi and Georgia grow up feeling like two halves of one whole person but wouldn't have things any other way. They survive the drunken furies of their father and they acknowledge Ida's need for constant discourse with her own mother, to whom the small gap of several continents poses no problems. The family spends three years in Nigeria, and one event in Georgia's young life has a knock-on effect as she grows older.

A family myth that is told them by the twins' maternal grandfather is another motif that endures with them into adulthood, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy and representing how the heritage of two cultures blends together. The characters are likeable and you are drawn into their stories, understanding the layers that make up the individual identities as well as the ties that bind the family together. At the same time, it all feels just a little bit too neat, and I preferred the darker undertones of Helen Oyeyemi's 'Icarus Girl' which was released around the same time and covers similar themes.
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