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Book Review 26a by Diana Evans

by Clare Thompson, Learner Resource Centre Assistant

26a is the story of a Nigerian-English family in London. Identical twins Georgia and Bessi are the "Middle Child", who inhabit the loft of 26 Waifer Avenue, the eponymous "26a". With a sister on either side, they move through childhood and adolescence with increasingly differing views of the world.  Their Nigerian mother pines for her home, and her mother's ghost has a place by her side; their father has a violent disposition which only appears after a drink.

The girls, along with their sisters, Kemy and Bel, discover boys, make-up, and Michael Jackson, along with the harsh reality of sex, relationships, and unhappy parents.

Perhaps the most memorable character is Ham, the girls' pet hamster, whose untimely death at the beginning would bring a tear to a glass eye.

Ham's world view:

 "He was ginger-furred with streaks of white, trapped in a cage next to the dishwasher. What is it? the eyes said. Where am I? The view from the cage was a hamster-blur of washing machine, stacked buckets, breathless curtains and plastic bags full of plastic bags hanging from the ceiling like ghosts of slaughter. People, giants, walked through from other parts of the house, slamming the doors and setting off wind-chime bells. A sour-faced man with a morning tremble. A woman of whispers in a hair net, carrying bread and frozen bags of black-eyes beans…" page 4

I am very aware that many scenes from this book will stay in my mind for months to come, which is the sign of a great book, rather than a good one. Most of it was devoured by me in Queen's Park on a sunny afternoon, and good weather is advised to make the most of this beautiful story.

 The "one-ness" and "two-ness" of twins; sisterly relationships; London in the late 20th century; the concept of "home"; cultural awareness; depression: all of these are explored knowingly, with a touch of biographical detail and poetry which make this first novel great.

Bring on the next one, Diana Evans!

 26a, and many other contemporary novels, are available in the Library.