New Year, World War 3, twins and the forgettability of some novels, by Enid Richemont.

Happy New Year to you all (here are some lizards having a party with some rather nice-looking cake to help you celebrate) although by the time this blog comes out, the new year will already be almost a month old.

It began badly, with the probably illegal assassination of a very bad man. I have no tears for him, but it happened via very Twenty-First Century technology - the attack directed from very far away from the target - reminding me disturbingly of the ethical issues raised in the film "DRONE", and of how we sat in the cinema rigid with fear for the little girl who kept returning to the target zone in spite of heroic efforts on the ground to keep her out of it. This guy was no innocent child, but he was in another country, and this was an invasion of its air space. Once, a long time ago, an equally unlovely guy called Hitler decided to invade Poland, thus starting the second world war. None of the protagonists in the current drama wants an outcome like that, but sometimes things just get out of control, and like many of us, I'm scared.

Back to a much nicer subject - books. I was given quite a lot at Christmas, considering my reading pace which is slow. The last one I opened was Audrey Niffenegger's latest novel: "HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY", which I'm now quite a way through - it's certainly a page-turner. Curiously, for me, it features twins - curiously, because one the the last novels I read in 2019 was Linda Gillard's magnificent "A LIFETIME BURNING", on the Kindle, which also features twins.

There's something about that bond between identical twins that fascinates. What must it be like to see your own face reflected in another's? The closest I ever got to exploring that in my work was my junior novel "TWICE TIMES DANGER", but the two girls in my story weren't actually twins, but doubles, which apparently can happen, so they say. Whether it's true or not, it's a good theme for a story. Which has me wondering about similar bonds between triplets/ quadruplets... and then to John Wyndham's scary SF novel "THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS". It's been a long time since I read it, but did those perfect blonde children have a collective intelligence?

And again on books - which ones do you remember and maybe go back to, like very old friends, and which do you read, enjoy and forget? I spent a lot of time at Christmas reading a very long Middle Grade novel (which shall be nameless for obvious reasons). I chose to read it as an ebook for personal study, because it's very popular with kids, so I felt it was something I should know about.

I was interested in the author's technique - I don't think I've ever come across SO many cliff-hangers! And the actual chapters - in Trumpish English "very many chapters, so many chapters" - were actually quite short. Like many children's authors of my generation, I've been accustomed to working to a wordcount of around 6-10000 for Middle Grade readers, but currently 30000+ seems to be just the starting point. I think it's the J K Rowling effect.

The book grabbed me. I could see its appeal, and the multitudinous cliff-hangers, although I could see them coming, were still cliff-hangers. The short chapters meant a lot of space on the page, making the eventual book look even fatter and more challenging. The plot was stuffed full of drama and events. Could I write something like this? Formulaic, but it worked. Then, more recently, trying to remember what I'd read in the last few months, I found I couldn't even remember its title (it wasn't that long ago that I'd been reading it) and had to resort to my Kindle Library to remind myself. Not sure what this implies, so over to you.

For those of you who have a Kindle, there's currently a three day promotion on one of my Young Adult novels. "TO SUMMON A SPIRIT" will be free from January 29th - 31st, so if you enjoy time-slip novels involving a possible murder, go grab (even if you aren't a Young Adult anymore!)


misha said…
Like you I'm fascinated by identical twins. It must be the idea of two halves of a whole and yet they are distinct personalities. Also as these twins grow up, they become less similar. Genes become modified by life experiences. This and the possible psychic link between twins is the theme of my time slip novel "Belvedere Crescent." Now I'm off to download your Young Adult book.
Griselda Heppel said…
Yes, I find I don't remember book titles the way I used to. I fear this is, cough, my age... but some titles are just more memorable than others. If it's made of words I can't visualise I'm hopeless, and it's not because the book itself wasn't any good. I adore Lindsay Davis's The Course of Honour, but it took me repeated looking up the title and concentrating hard to have it stick in my brain.
There's also a theory that it's harder to remember a book read on a tablet than in hard copy, I don't know if that's true. Impossible to test really! Good for you, though, checking out a book you wouldn't normally read, to see how and why it works.
I was fascinated by twins as a child. I collected more than one pair of twin dolls... As an adult, I actually have twins - though they are neither identical nor even the same gender. Dizygotic twins are merely sister and brother, so the fascination of others doesn't occur... more to the point, last year I found twins occurring in 3 novels I read (one after the other) and which I had not known had twins as characters before I read them. As a mother of twins, of course, I could tell the writers were not... No 'special relationship' including psychic stuff exists between such twins. Rivalry, maybe, and embarrassment at how your twin behaves at school, annoyance that you are supposed to excel at the same subjects... no mystery, no collective thoughts... and even identicals (you get to know other mums of twins) can happily move away from each other, live across the world, and do very different work... ah well, the idea, the concept, though - it does indeed often make a good story... BUT, I hope writers will research the different kinds of twins, and portray it like it is? Or am I being 'too scientific'?

Popular posts

A Few Discreet Words About Caesar's Penis--Reb MacRath

Margery Allingham and ... knitting? Casting on a summer’s mystery -- by Julia Jones

A writer's guide to Christmas newsletters - Roz Morris

Irresistably Drawn to the Faustian Pact: Griselda Heppel Channels her Inner Witch for World Book Day 2024.

What's Your Angle--by Reb MacRath