Beside Myself is a literary thriller about identical twins, Ellie and Helen, who swap places aged six. At first it is just a game, but then Ellie refuses to swap back. Forced into her new identity, Helen develops a host of behavioural problems, delinquency and chronic instability.
With their lives diverging sharply, one twin headed for stardom and the other locked in a spiral of addiction and mental illness, how will the deception ever be uncovered?
Exploring questions of identity, selfhood, and how other people’s expectations affect human behaviour, this novel is as gripping as it is psychologically complex.
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Check out those all important ‘first lines’ here …
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Ann graduated from Cambridge University with a first-class degree in English literature and went on to do a master’s in creative writing at UEA. She has also trained in sub-editing at the London College of Communication and earned a postgraduate diploma with distinction from the London School of Journalism.
Following a few years of strange and rather varied jobs, these days, Ann is a freelance writer and editor, available for copywriting, journalism commissions, speaking engagements and sub-editing shifts.
Her non-fiction book “Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer”, inspired by her year-long journey through a book from every country, was published in 2015.
“Beside Myself” is her debut fiction book.
When not writing, Ann can often be found performing with some of London’s top professional choirs. Singing has taken her to such far-flung destinations as the Red Sea, the Arctic Circle, India, and Texas, as well many places in between.
Catch up with Ann Morgan, writer and editor, on her website
Check out Ann’s reading adventures that inspired “Reading The World”, here
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MEMORABLE WORDS FROM THE BOOK
It’s an amazing secret to discover: the power of not caring, of having nothing to lose. It opens doors, it wins respect … that means you hardly ever get hurt. And even if you do, it doesn’t matter, because you’re not really there. They can’t touch you.
But I think the blank page is the best I can do. Because it is a lot better than the mess that would come out from inside my head if I really got to work. Other times it all just makes me sad. Everyones seems a long, long way away and it is like I am inside a tunnel looking out through a tiny hole. If I held up my finger and covered the place, the world would be gone and there would be nothing but blackness all around.
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BOOK
“I’m Helen the good one because I was born first”
Reviews for this debut novel, have been very mixed, but overall quite positive, with most readers, including myself, taking something important away from its original, unique and unsettling storyline, in what has recently become, a very crowded genre.
The characters themselves, almost to a person, were distinctly unlikeable, selfish and clinging; each motivated purely by their individual wants and needs, without any care or consideration for anyone around them, including the two young sisters, who to be honest, were just as bad.
The mother was by far and away the worst of the bunch, totally self-centred and needy. I really wanted to empathise with her position of having been left alone to care for two small children, in circumstances which were sure to have raised a few eye-brows; however she made this almost impossible, with her complete lack of motivation to care for her daughters and deal with even their most basic emotional needs. Her only interest was in persuading another man to replace her husband and take all the responsibility off her shoulders, whether he was the right person for the girls to have in their lives, or not!
After all, I asked myself several times, what normal mother would be unable to recognise one twin from another? A question which wasn’t to be answered until right near the end of the story, when the girls, now middle aged women, were partially reconciled and almost when it was too late. Although that, together with another startling and unexpected revelation, explained why Ellie had been so eager to stay in role as Helen, once the two girls had agreed to exchange identities as children.
Helen, in her new role as Ellie, was probably the most complex and difficult character to fathom out. Admittedly, as a six year old child, who was going to believe that she was anyone other than who she said she was, so when the real Ellie refuses to come out of role play and revert to being herself, Helen’s plan backfires spectacularly, despite her pleas and protestations. I really did struggle to get inside Helen’s psyche though, to see why she had regressed so totally into the personality of her challenged sister to such a degree, that her own tortured mental health suffered so badly.
In this multi-layered story, author Ann Morgan, has explored so many disturbing and thought-provoking issues, including: individual identity and the loss thereof; mental health issues, including those which remain unidentified and untreated; and dysfunctional family units where relationships have completely broken down, yet are left undetected – that by the end of the book, I was almost feeling the total loss and desolation of the characters, as if they were real people, me having become so immersed in their fictional lives.
I quickly got used to an excellent writing style, brutal in its honesty, which offered a unique, addictive and highly original voice, to a range of social expectations and mores, which define our individually unique, multi-layered qualities and personalities.
Ann Morgan is an author I hope to hear much more from.
My copy of ‘Beside Myself’, came courtesy of Philippa Cotton of Bloomsbury Press and the folks at Netgalley, who provided the complimentary download, on their behalf. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other promotional article.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 4 out of 5.