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26a (Anglais) Broché – 2 mars 2006

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The First Bit

Before they were born, Georgia and Bessi experienced a moment of indecision. They had been travelling through the undergrowth on a crescent-moon night with no fixed destination and no notion of where they were, whether it was a field in Buckinghamshire, the Yorkshire Dales or somewhere along the M1 from Staples Corner to Watford. Night birds were singing. The earth smelt of old rain. Through scratchy bramble they scurried, through holes that became warm tunnels and softly lit underground caves. Their paws pressed sweet berries in the long grass and they sniffed each other’s scent to stay together.

Soon they began to sense that they were coming to a road. One of those huge open spaces of catastrophe where so many had perished. Squirrels smashed into the tarmac. Rabbits, badgers, walking birds — murdered and left for the flies. Bessi thought they should risk it and cross, there was nothing coming for miles. But Georgia wasn’t sure, because you could never be sure, and look at what the consequences might be (a little way up the road a bird lay glistening in its blood, feathers from its wing pointing stiffly up to the sky).

They crept to the roadside to get a closer look. Nothing coming at all. No engine thunder, no lights. It took a long time for Georgia to come round. OK then. Let’s be quick, quicker than quick. Run, leap, fly. Be boundless, all speed. They stepped on to the road and shot forward, almost touching, and then the engine came, and for reasons beyond their reach, they stopped.

That was the memory that stayed with them: two furry creatures with petrified eyes staring into the oncoming headlights, into the doubled icy sun, into possibility. It helped explain things. It reminded them of who they were.

A slowness followed the killing. While their blood seeped into the road they experienced warmth, softness, wet. But mostly it was brutal. There were screams and a feeling of being strangled. Then a violent push and they landed freezing cold in surgical electric white, hysterical, blubbering, trying to shake the shock from their hearts. It was a lot to handle. Georgia, who was born first, forty-five minutes first, refused to breathe for seven minutes. And two and a half years later, still resentful, she was rushed back to St Luke’s Hospital with dishcloth, carpet dust, half her afro and tassels off the bottom of the sofa clinging to her intestines. She’d eaten them, between and sometimes instead of her rice pudding and ravioli. The ordeal of it. Ida running around the house shouting Georgia’s dying, my Georgia’s dying! and the ambulance whisking her off and Bessi feeling that strange sinking back towards the road (which, when they were old enough to explore the wilderness of Neasden, they decided could well have been the North Circular that raged across the bottom of their street).

There is a photograph of them seated at a table in front of their third birthday cake, about to blow, three candle flames preparing to disappear. Georgia’s arms are raised in protest of something forgotten and across her stomach, hidden, is the scar left over from where they’d slit her open and lifted out the hair and the living room carpet like bleeding worms and then sewed her back together. The scar grew up with her. It widened like a pale smile and split her in two.

As for Bessi, she spent her first human month in an incubator, with wires in her chest, limbs straggling and pleading like a beetle on its back. The incubator had a lot to answer for.

So Georgia and Bessi understood exactly that look in the eye of the hamster downstairs in the sunlounge. 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 the ghosts of slaughter. People, giants, walked through from other parts of the house, slamming the door 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-eyed beans.

What is it?

Feebly he poked at the plastic wheel in the corner, looking for motion, hoping for escape or clarity. And the explanation never came. It was deeper than needing to know what the wheel was for, where the cage had come from and how he’d got there, or in the twins’ case, the meaning of ‘expialidocious’ or why their father liked Val Doonican. It was more of a What is Val Doonican? And therefore, What am I? The question that preceded all others.

The hamster was alone, which made it worse. Alone with a wheel on a wasteland of wood shavings and newspaper. Georgia and Bessi did everything they could; stuffed him with grapes and cleaned his mess, gave him a name. ‘Ham,’ Georgia said, her eyes level with Ham’s because she was only seven, ‘be happy some days or you might not wake up in the morning, isn’t it. Here’s a present.’ She’d pulled a rose off the rose bush in the garden that was Her Responsibility (Aubrey had said so, and Ida had agreed — so Kemy could shut up) and laid it, the ruby petals flat on one side, a single leaf asleep in the sun, on a saucer. She opened the cage and put the saucer next to Ham. He sniffed it and then was still again, but with a thoughtful look on his face that wasn’t there before. Georgia thought that sometimes flowers were better for people’s health than food. She often spent entire afternoons in the garden with a cloth, a spade and a watering can, wiping dirt off leaves, spraying the lawn with vigour, and pulling away the harmful weeds.

The twins lived two floors above Ham, in the loft. It was their house. They lived at 26a Waifer Avenue and the other Hunters were 26, down the stairs where the house was darker, particularly in the cupboard under the stairs where Aubrey made them sit and ‘think about what you’ve done’ when they misbehaved (which could involve breaking his stapler, using all the hot water, finishing the ginger nuts or scratching the car with the edge of a bicycle pedal). Other dark corners for thinking about what you’ve done were located at the rear of the dining room next to Aubrey’s desk and outside in the garage with the dirty rags and white spirit.

From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

Revue de presse

"A hugely assured and very moving first novel" (Mark Haddon Sunday Telegraph)

"A remarkable first novel...vibrant...exotic" (Sunday Times)

"The Great Neasden Novel has arrived...Haunting and cherishable...A hugely promising debut" (Independent)

"A dazzling debut...I adored this book; I defy anyone to read the final pages without tears in their eyes. Easily the best book of the year so far" (Scotsman)

"This sparky debut novel... Enthralling from the first page, this bittersweet fusion of fairytales and nightmares is sugared by nostalgia and salted with sadness, Hephzibah Anderson, Daily Mail" (Hephzibah Anderson, Daily Mail)

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x935fb1a4) étoiles sur 5 17 commentaires
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x92a9d018) étoiles sur 5 The Famous Flapjack Twins 17 juin 2008
Par Lena M. Irish - Publié sur Amazon.com
26A by Diana Evans introduces readers to the lives of identical twin sisters. Bessi and Georgie are intricately connected from even before the womb, as the author so uniquely illustrates. The story is set in England, in a suburb of London called Neasden, their address being 26 Waifer Avenue (the "A" signifying the attic where the twins reside). Bessi and Georgie are bi-racial and live with their mother, Ida, who fled from Lagos, Nigeria to avoid an arranged marriage; their father, Aubrey, who is English and a successful businessman who met their mother while in Nigeria on an extended business trip; their older sister, Isabel (Bel) and their younger sister, Kemy. All of the sisters are extremely close and very protective of each other. However, their older and younger sisters make special effort to protect the bond of the twins. Their space is respected and no one enters their world without permission. The sisters are an extreme comfort and support to each other as they deal with their parents impending "divorce" and cope with their father's frequent bouts of anger, as they often refer to him as Dr. Jekyll or Mr Hyde, depending on his behavior that day.

What resonated most about 26A was the way in which the author described the relationship between Bessi and Georgie. Evans literally blew me away with how she described a relationship that I, as an identical twin, could never begin to put into words myself - and probably never would, because some of the things shared seemed as natural as breathing. For example, Bessi and Georgie "share" dreams. Georgie visits a character in her dreams named Gladstone that she talks to Bessi about all the time, as if he is a real part of their family. Another example is how they feel each other's discomfort or pain. Evans described a scene so vividly in which one of the twins was being harmed and the other felt her pain.

Bessi and Georgie do not make any moves without consulting the other - their twin's consideration is always put first and it has to be because they were partners before their lives began! From being business partners in their flapjack-making endeavor, The Famous Flapjack Twins, to lifetime partners. Their dependency on one another is likened to the way your left foot is dependent on your right. One cannot go further until the other one goes first and if one breaks, well, the other one will carry all the weight until her partner recovers.

This is a love story of sorts which describes the bond between two soul mates that would do anything to protect the private world in which they live. They protect this world by keeping it peaceful, safe, happy, and young. First and foremost, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a twin or a sibling of twins, for you will gain much more appreciation for your/their relationship, or anyone that is fascinated with the unique relationship of twins or of sisters coming of age. The cultural references were also enlightening and very interesting to read about as well. Overall, you will not be disappointed!

Reviewed by: Lena Willis
APOOO BookClub
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x92a9d420) étoiles sur 5 Beautiful and poetic 18 novembre 2007
Par Lola. M - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
In this magnificent debut, Diana Evans captures the magic and complexity of childhood with such honesty and candor it will take you right back to your own memories. To quote an excerpt:

"On the outside of their front door Georgia and Bessi had written in chalk '26a', and on the inside 'G + B', at eye level, just above the handle. This was the extra dimension. The one after sight, sound, smell, touch and taste where the world multiplied and exploded because it was the sum of two people. Bright was twice as bright. All the colours were extra. Girls with umbrellas skipped across the wallpaper and Georgia and Bessi could hear them laughing."

Georgia and Bessi are identical twins growing up in Neasden, London. Their mother is a Nigerian immigrant who pines after her homeland and converses with 'spirits' while their father, an English accountant, drowns his sorrows in the bottle. Despite these difficulties, Georgia and Bessi grow up as confident and imaginative girls, escaping in their own world of fantasy and possibility.

What makes this novel so successful is the ultra-delicious writing, sprinkled with unusual linguistic devices and elements of 'magical realism'. Add to that animated, well-crafted characters and a story line that is hard to put down!

Part hilarious, part endearing, part sobering, 26a is a moving ode to childhood, the pains of growing up and the magic of 'twinhood'.
3 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x92a9d4a4) étoiles sur 5 Girls book grabbed a guy 11 mars 2007
Par Arc Wrighter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I listened to this on tape, read by the amazing Adjoa Andoh. I don't know if I would have appreciated all the playful language if I had been reading silently. The language, the view through children's viewpoints (which not many of us actually grow out of anyway, the great story telling all made me keep listening. The troubles near the end may disturb ome readers, but, in spite of mystical touches, the difficulties of the lives are not treated fancifully. I was quite interested in the characters in spite of their great differences from my milieu.
HASH(0x92a9d870) étoiles sur 5 Worlds within worlds 5 octobre 2011
Par Dominique Cyprès - Publié sur Amazon.com
Achat vérifié
In her first published novel, Diana Evans masterfully weaves together the twin realities of growing up in a fractured, multicultural, essentially modern family and the magical world shared only by two sisters whose bond serves as a model of familial togetherness and companionship so intense it makes one person of two.

Born to an English banker and his Nigerian-born wife in the London suburb of Neasden, twin protagonists Georgia and Bessi Hunter claim as their shared birthright a multiplicity of locales -- the deceptively pedestrian environs of their middle-class English home, the unfamiliar Nigerian homeland of their mother, and the many realms they explore together in dreams and visions. None of these places is without considerable danger, and the twins face great horrors in each. Their growing-up throughout the course of the novel is a struggle against abuse, alienation, and uncertainty.

Evans relates her balanced and forceful plot with a strong lyric voice informed by her experience with poetry. Though she occasionally gives way to melodrama, readers are unlikely to resent her for it, given her rich appreciation for her characters' inner lives and her peculiar sense of linguistic and narrative invention.
HASH(0x92a9d684) étoiles sur 5 Doppelganger Spirit 5 octobre 2011
Par AlexReads - Publié sur Amazon.com
Achat vérifié
Diana Evans' debut novel, 26A, boasts more than just this author's proficient use of the English language. Evans' language and characterization of the two young protagonists, Georgia and Bessi, reaches out to the reader and finds his sentimentality, his complex understanding of himself and his relationships, and his nostalgia. Evans employs the real and mystical realms as she probes ontological understandings of the reason through the often separate parts of the twins: their Nigerian halves from their mother Ida and their English halves from their father Aubrey. The mystic realm enters through their Ida: her baths and secret conversations with Nne-Nne, her father's stories of Nigerians labeling twins as evil, and her aid in Bel's interpretations of prophetic dreams. The real realm enters through Aubrey: his nightly glass of scotch, his overbearing mother, and his need to control his household. The twins' relationship and spiritual bond also reflects on the mystic realm. The girls are affected physically when one thing happens to one of them the other feels it. They have a deeper understanding of one another's feelings.
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