Beside Myself by Ann Morgan – a review

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan is her first novel, The story focuses on Helen and Ellie who are identical twins but with very different personalities. One day as a game they decide to swap places and both are pleased when they manage to fool their mother. However things start to go wrong when Ellie refuses to swap back. Having previously always been the submissive one Ellie seems to relish in becoming the more popular Helen and Helen fails to find anyone who will believe that they have swapped. This leads to Helen suffering behavioural problems at school and becoming more ostracized from her family. The book switches from the twins when young, to ‘Smudge’ now an adult and barely surviving on her own.
This wasn’t my usual type of thriller, there were no murders for a start but it was interesting and for the most part I enjoyed it. The idea of swapping twins around and the outcomes of this was fascinating. It is almost the perfect nature versus nurture experiment. Can being the favourite child really give you a better start in life?
I must admit there was a bit of me that did find some of it all a bit unbelievable at the start, surely a mother would notice the difference between her two children? Surely Helen wouldn’t have shut up until someone listened?
Yet what I thought was really good was the portrayal of Helen’s breakdown. After the swap Helen is lost and you can see clearly how someone so marginalised and un-cared for easily falls into the self destructive path she took to try and get some attention. She felt as though she was disappearing so desperately wanted someone to notice her, hence the drug taking and acting up in school. I felt that this was a really good depiction of someone suffering from mental health issues without any family support.
On the less positive side it did take me a while to get into the way the story was told as it skipped about a lot between the timelines covering current Helen, young Helen and middle Helen as she starts to grow up and build her life. However once this clicked with me, it gave the story an almost frantic feeling, which mirrored the way Helen lived. There was a lot of description which I must admit to skipping over a bit as I just wanted to get to the story but that’s just a personal preference.
It was quite a hard read, not just because of the way the story was written but also the subject matter which was quite dark. At times you almost feel like you are actually the one getting a bit manic. Although I thought the ending was a little bit of a let down overall I enjoyed this book and thought it was a good debut novel.

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