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“Rich and strange. . . . A funny, haunting, marvelous debut.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Beautifully written. . . . Evans’s true subject is at once more familiar and more exotic than England or Nigeria. She allows us a glimpse into the lost country of childhood, of which we have all been citizens and to which we can never return.”
—The New York Times
“A poignant and moving first novel. . . . Evans creates an intricate world that begins and ends in room 26a – a world that reveals the careful balance required to sustain an intimate universe of two.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Tender and evocative. . . . Sensual and poetic. . .powerful and uncompromising. . . . The lives of [Evans’] characters are governed by a quiet humour; her sensitivity to their perceptions creating unity in a narrative obsessed by halves and parts. . . . A mature, compelling and beautiful first novel.”
“Marvellously written. . . . Rich with both ordinary and extraordinary realities.”
—The Seattle Times
“Enthralling from the first page, this bittersweet fusion of fairytales and nightmares is sugared by nostalgia and salted with sadness.”
—Daily Mail (UK)
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.
Excerpted from 26A by Diana Evans
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|The First Bit|
|The Second Bit|
|The Third Bit|
|10||What Is It?||179|
|12||A Cottage by a Hill||212|
|13||See You Monday||225|
|The Best Bit|
|14||The Best Bit||237|
1. 'There were thoughts with bows and thoughts without.' Can you find other examples of where the twins' own thoughts are invested with the life and persona of the twins' own outward appearances? What is the effect of this narrative technique? Do you like it, and do you find it a unique way of writing?
2. Discuss the significance of the characters' time in Sekon, and how it impacts on the rest of their lives. Did you find that Evans' use of colours to tell her story changed in any way after this time?
3. How important is magical realism as a technical device for Evans to tell her story? Find some examples of this technique and consider why they are significant to the novel.
4. How necessary is a belief in mythology or mysticism to your enjoyment of this novel?
5. 'It was the first time ever, in this land of twoness in oneness, that something had seemeed unsayable.' Discuss what impact the 'cartwheel' incident with Sedrick has on the twins' relationship.
6. Consider the role of dreams in the novel.
Posted April 13, 2009
"26a" is a rare combination of Magical Realism and Historic Fiction... As one who lived in London during the times depicted, I can vouch for total authenticity. The sights and sounds of London and the surrounding suburbs are spot on. The Characters swiftly become dear Friends, whose trials and troubles bring one often to tears.
I will always keep this Book, and I know I'll read it many times over.
Posted March 16, 2009
Posted January 23, 2009
the authors style of writing is definitely unique and interesting, however it can be very confusing at times. i found myself having to reread certain paragraphs because i just didn't get it the first time around. the symbolism used adds to all the confusion. this was definitely an interesting read but i think i'm going to have to read it again to fully grasp the story and appreciate the writing. i would recommend this book to others, just be patient while reading. it has a good concept and will leave you thinking.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 7, 2008
26A tells the story of two identical twin sisters, Bessi and Georgia Hunter. They have an intricate connection that existed even before their birth. The two sisters live with their younger sister, Kemy, who tries to fit in with the twins; Bella, or Mystic Bel, their older sister, who has psychic abilities; mother, Ida, who ran away from Nigeria to escape an arranged marriage; and their father, Aubrey, who has frequent angry spells as a result of his drinking. <BR/><BR/>The book starts with their birth, and continues to their early twenties. When the twins are young, they do everything together, and almost no one is let into the private world they live in. However, in a temporary move to Nigeria, Georgia experiences a traumatic event. She keeps this event a secret from everyone, especially Bessi. This begins the split between the two twins and Georgia¿s depression. <BR/><BR/>Later, Bessi leaves England, Georgia becomes increasingly depressed, and the twins grow farther apart. Her days are eventually categorized into colors; on certain colored days, it¿s hard to even buy milk. <BR/><BR/>At one point, Georgia realizes she wasn¿t made for this world, and makes the hardest decision of her life, causing devastation to her family and especially to Bessi. But, for the next year, the problem is solved; the Hunter family sees in their own eyes the truth in an old Nigerian legend told by the twins¿ grandfather. <BR/><BR/>I really enjoyed reading this book. It addressed some very serious issues while still maintaining a mystical quality. Diana Evans has an amazing writing technique that describes the feelings the twins feel in perfectly. I would recommend it to anyone looking for funny, yet sad book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 4, 2006
This is a truly good, well-written book. Sure, at times its a little hard to get through, but so are many other coming-of-age books. It sounds cliche, but I laughed and cried, and would reccommend it to anybody, anywhere.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 14, 2005
Althought I am not a literary of any means, I read this book for a book club (it was picked by another person). I continually got lost and the thoughts of the book appeared random. It was definitely a struggle to get through.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 11, 2009
No text was provided for this review.