Bloomsbury Publishing Australia
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.
Powerful! Intense! Confronting! This book has it all.
This book was a very difficult read- I read the first fifty pages or so and was in a dilemma – to continue or not? I found these first pages strangely horrific – the voice of the little girl, Helen, who constantly seeks to “teach her a lesson” (her being her twin sister Ellie), Helen’s voice is so nasty and malevolent I considered not reading any further. (And then there was the underlying hint of potential sexual abuse from a friend’s older brother, another sinister voice/character). I really was in two minds as to carry on or not.
Curiosity and a few days break from the book and I started reading again with an intensity that had me picking up this book every opportunity I could make. What a powerhouse of emotions and psychological twists this was! A brilliant study of identity, influences, how expectations effect children’s (and adults I presume too) personality, mental health, achievements and general wellbeing.
Mental health issues, suicide, self-harm, suicide are themes that are laid bare for all to consider. And the big one – the damage that is done when we do not believe a child – when they share they are being bullied or abused – in all forms of abuse. The most damage we can do is not believe or take seriously.
WOW! Just WOW! I am exhausted! This book is complex and intense and illuminating and surprisingly optimistic. I am so pleased I decided to continue on reading this book. Everyone should read this book – the world might be a better place if it pricks our conscience and makes us look at the person next to us with a little more compassion.
A fantastic debut novel!