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‘Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan

‘BESIDE MYSELF’

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.

Clicking on the book’s cover image, will take you directly to its Amazon page.

Check out those all important ‘first lines’ here

Tease yourself a little more, with these lines

ANN MORGAN

Image Of Author Ann Morgan

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

Follow Ann on Twitter

Like Ann’s page on Facebook

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.

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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8 comments
  • There are still things about this book that make me hesitate (especially the quantity of unlikable characters!), but I’m also terribly intrigued. I’ve always been fascinated by identical twins and the basic premise of this story sounds captivating. Perhaps I’ll just put it on my wish list for now.

    Thanks for the excellent review, Yvonne!

    • Hi Kelly,

      I think that by the end of the book I was feeling desperately sorry for some of these difficult to like characters, as they all seemed to have deep and dark issues, which were almost impossible to unravel, let alone begin to heal.

      Keeping secrets never does anyone any good from what I can see and neither does bottling up feelings, especially those of resentment and envy, although whether any of that would have affected the way twins Ellie and Helen chose to conduct themselves, who can say.

      ‘Beside Myself’ was as much a work of literary fiction as it was a psychological thriller and the edges became very blurred between the two genres. This is one I definitely think you might enjoy 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words and the lovely comment. I hope that you enjoy your weekend.

    • Hi Vicki,

      Please don’t say it was my review which made you change your mind about reading ‘Beside Myself’. I’m sure that Ann would be most distressed if that was the case and that outcome definitely wasn’t my intention.

      That’s why I always strive to be quite neutral in my reviews, as a book which I might have really enjoyed and recommended, may not be the next person’s idea of a good read at all, and vice versa.

      I really did enjoy ‘Beside Myself’, hence the 4 star rating. It was simply that so many of the characters were ‘damaged’ and very complex, that I needed to concentrate on the narrative in order to sort out the many emotions and feelings which were such a prevalent part of the storyline.

      I certainly wouldn’t hesitate in reading another book by this author 🙂

  • Beside Myself sounds right up my alley. It sounds complex and thought-provoking. How interesting to think of identical twins changing roles, that is creepy. I wonder if anyone has really ever done that. That’s a strong quote about ” the power of not caring, of having nothing to lose”. If someone can do that, what level have they reached of disconnect?
    Great post as always. Happy weekend! I’m trying to work up a mailbox Monday post for next week now.

    • Hi Naida,

      I still struggle with the concept that any ‘normal’ mother wouldn’t be able to tell their twins apart, making it almost impossible for them to switch roles. However, we have to remember that this mother is far from normal and is only interested in furthering her own emotional wants and needs, to the detriment of her girls.

      I never really thought of the storyline as creepy, however that is a good word to apply in this instance, as you can never rely on anything anyone says or does, as being the truth.

      I too found the line you selected to be quite powerful and disturbing, however one of the lines from the second quote really got to me ….

      “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”

      I found a real sense of desolation and despair in those words.
      ———————————-
      I shall also be posting for Mailbox Monday this week, however I shall be combining the book’s introduction with an evocative guest post by the author, which says far more than I ever could about it 🙂

  • This looks interesting. I always wondered what it would have been like to have a twin – a “good” twin. To have someone that close take over your life seems like an ultimate violation.

    • Hi Carolyn,

      I think that as a young child, my parents would have said that I was far too selfish to have been one of twins. Having a brother who was four years younger than me worked well in my favour, as I was already the apple of both my nan and grandad’s eye and thoroughly spoilt, long before he came along!

      That isn’t quite as terrible as it sounds, as we actually got along quite well and still do to this day, but that still didn’t stop me misbehaving, then managing to frame him every time, so that he got both the blame and the punishment!

      Even though I am not a believer in the cards, horoscopes etc, I do still believe that there is something in all this personality profiling which goes on today. As a Gemini, I quite often find myself thinking the exact same thoughts as my husband, at exactly the same time and feeeling ill when he does etc. Although as he is also a Gemini, I guess that we shouldn’t be together really, as there are definitely four of us in this marriage 🙂 🙂

      Great to hear from you. ‘Beside Myself’ is a tense read, if you are ever in the mood for a good strong psychological stoyline 🙂

Written by Yvonne

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