Friday, April 14, 2006

26A by Diana Evans

I hadn't heard anything about this, but came across it in the library on the new fiction shelf. It won the Orange Prize for New Fiction, and I usually try to keep track of those books, but I managed to miss discussions of this one in the press. It's another "multicultural Britain" book, being compared to White Teeth, and Brick Lane. I don't know why reviewers feel they have to lump all these books together, when they are really very different from one another. Are women of color who write fiction so rare in Britain that they must automatically be assigned their own category? I don't know the answer to that. I hated White Teeth, and loved Brick Lane, and thought this was pretty good.

I don't normally enjoy books narrated by children, but in this case it worked very well. In fact, I found the book more interesting in the beginning when the twin protagonists were quite young (around 9?). It was a whimsical, funny, warm, and very real portrait of life in an eccentric, mixed-race family. As the twins get older, and their problems develop and increase, I found the book less appealing. It loses the effervescent quality that is so delightful in the beginning, and just gets depressing. In fact, by the end, it's really depressing. But it's well written, and a depressing end does not necessarily make for a bad book, just one that I am likely to enjoy a bit less.

Here's a long review from the Guardian.
(Book 17, 2006)


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