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26a: A Novelby Diana Evans
Synopses & Reviews
A hauntingly beautiful, wickedly funny and devastatingly moving novel of innocence and dreams that announces the arrival of a major new talent to the literary scene.
The attic room at 26a Waifer Avenue in the lower-middle-class London neighborhood of Neasden is a sanctuary for identical twins Georgia and Bessi Hunter. It is a private universe where fantasy reigns as well as an escape from the sadness and danger that inhabit the floors below. Here the girls share nectarines and forge their identities — planning glorious success as the Famous Flapjack Twins — well removed from their Nigerian mother, Ida, who, devastated by homesickness, speaks to the spirits of the family she left behind on another continent. On occasion Georgia and Bessi's older sister, Bel, and younger sister, Kemy, are admitted into their broad, bright and fanciful realm, but never their English father, who nightly bathes the wounds of his own upbringing in far too much drink.
But innocence lasts for only so long — and dreams, no matter how vivid and powerful, cannot slow the relentless incursions of the real world. Bel's transition into womanhood brings a very grown-up problem into the house that cannot be pretended away. Kemy's entire existence is redefined overnight by seductive pop-star glitter. And a terrible secret begins to threaten the twins' utopia, setting them on divergent paths toward heartrending resolutions in a world of separateness and solitude.
A work of bold, lyrical beauty, telling detail and compelling characterization — at once cheerful and thoughtful, playful and profound — and written in a unique prose style that metamorphoses brilliantly with the passage of time, 26a will surely be one of the most-talked-about novels of this year and many years to come, and its remarkable author, Diana Evans, welcomed gratefully into the highest order of literary achievement.
"From the very beginning of Evan's first novel (winner of Britain's inaugural Orange Award for New Writers), readers know they're in for something rich and strange. Two small furry creatures scurry through the night to their deaths — and are reborn as twins Georgia and Bessi. The middle daughters of Aubrey Hunter and his Nigerian wife, Ida, they occupy the attic room at 26a Waifer Avenue in London. When the twins are eight, the family takes a three-year sojourn in Nigeria, where they live a relatively grander life ('We had servants,' Bessi later brags), but where Georgia has a terrifying run-in with a 'ju-ju man' that changes her. The novel meanders as the girls grow, pausing to explore an intricate weave of childhood fantasy, African religion, nightmare, pop mythology and the intense inner world of identical twins. All the Hunters are drawn with care: hard-working Ida, who misses her mother so desperately that she converses with her daily in her head; hard-drinking Aubrey, whom liquor transforms into a Mr. Hyde; older sister Bel, rushing into adult sexuality; little Kemy, in love with Michael Jackson; and the twins, with their jokes, adventures and plans for a flapjack empire. This is a funny, haunting, marvelous debut. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"At once tender and funny: a keen study of home, homelessness and the limits of symbiosis." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] noteworthy first novel that reads with the ease of respiration and recalls both Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Monica Ali's Brick Lane....Evans should earn accolades for this trenchant debut..." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Evans's language can be uneven, veering toward the precious (two characters make 'butterly love') or the strange, but she can also turn a haunting, perfect phrase. A promising debut from a young author with much yet to offer." Library Journal
"[D]eserves to be read, and reread, by a large audience....Evans deftly balances comedy and tragedy, unfolding her story in vivid patchwork pieces that come together to form a bittersweet family portrait, splashed with brilliant images." Boston Globe
"Beautiful...Evans is in a class of her own." Melbourne Herald Sun
"Beautiful....A very earthy and relatable tale of family bonds and fractures." Boston Herald
About the Author
Diana Evans has worked as a journalist and arts critic, contributing to Marie Claire, the Daily Telegraph, the Observer, and the Independent. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies. She lives in London, England. 26a is her first novel.
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