* Prices may differ from that shown
The story is about two conjoined twins. Their young mother abandons them hours after they are born on discovery of them being joined at the head. The two girls are brought up on a farm by Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash. The aunt and uncle are really good characters, they strict when required, funny, and full of love. They push the girls to live as normal lives as possible which works well as they are in a small countryside community. The twins are named Rose and Ruby and they are both very different characters. Rose is quite introverted and likes books and sports, whereas Ruby prefers gossip and girly things. The twins also have physical differences. Rose is much stronger than Ruby, Rose has some disfigurements and has to carry Ruby around. Ruby is much prettier than her conjoined twin. Obviously these differences cause a little conflict with Rose and Ruby but the girls get on incredibly well - I guess you would have no choice but to compromise if you were conjoined. This book is written in an autobiographical style mainly by Rose but Ruby also contributes later on as the book progresses. The style of the book works really well with the 2 girls having very difference voices and writing styles. Throughout the book you follow the girls through their lives, their teenage angst onto them getting a job and working in their local library. I found this book intriguing. The author had clearly done her research on conjoined twins and you really believe in the characters. I look forward to reading more from Lori Lansens in the future.
Rose and Ruby Darlen enter the world in a dramatic way .... First, their very young and teenage mother goes into labour when a tornado hits the town and is using up all the doctors and nurses at the hospital. Second, the doctor who helps to deliver them has a heart attack and dies not long after seeing them. Why? They are Craniopagus twins. This means that the girls are attached anatomically by the head, but even though they have their own bodies, own brains and organs, etc, they can never be separated as they are also joined by many blood vessels in their head that can't be detached without killing them both.
After the twins are born, they are transported to a bigger hospital. Their mother does not want to go with them, so the nurse who helped during labour (Aunt Lovey) feels that it is her 'calling' to go with the girls. Abandoned by their mother at only a few hours old, the twins are adopted by Aunt Lovey and her husband, Uncle Stash, who have never had children of their own. They encourage the girls to be 'themselves' and to live life as normal as possible, even getting a job in their local library which they love.
Even though they are twins, they are very different. Rose loves sports and reading, whereas Ruby loves TV(!) and history.
The book is written in a style of an autobiography with Rose being the main author. However, Ruby does contribute to some chapters. It is about their life as Craniopagus twins. After hearing the devasting news that Rose has a brain aneurysm, they are told that there is nothing the doctors can do for them anymore and gives them no more than 6 months to live (even though the aneurysm is in Rose's brain, it will also kill Ruby as they are attached by blood vessels). They are 29 years old. Their biggest wish is to be able to see the day of their 30th birthday which would make them the oldest Craniopagus twins in history.
Rose is determined to finish her autobiography before the aneurysm erupts. We get the full effects that the aneurysm is causing Rose through Ruby's chapters. She explains how Rose is slowing down with her writing. Ruby explains that towards the end of the book Rose is only writing about a page a day, whereas in the beginning, she wrote all day.
The writing styles between the twins are very different. Rose writes in a more 'grown-up' style whereas Ruby writes in a very simple, and down-to-earth manner. The author carries this off very well, and really made it seem like the book was being written by two different people.
Even though both of the girls wrote about the past and what had happened in their lives, it was mainly Ruby who wrote about the present and about how their bodies were starting to fail. This again was very cleverly done by the author.
I have never read any books by Lori Lansen before, but I will definitely be looking out for her books in the future. This book obviously needed a lot of research into Craniopagus twins and the effects this can have, which I feel the author did really well as I felt sad, and also happy for Rose and Ruby. I started reading this book (which my mum gave me) with no idea at all what Craniopagus twins meant, never mind how their lives might be affected by being conjoined, but after finishing the book, I felt like I had gained a lot of knowledge into this medical condition.
The only disadvantage, is that in the beginning of the book, it states that they are only joined by the head, and apart from this they can do a lot of things by themselves individually, but after reading a few chapters we learn that Rose has to carry Ruby. I was not sure why this was the case, and am still none the wiser now after finishing the novel. The only logical reason is that Ruby's legs aren't long enough, but I'm not 100% sure ....
~~Also posted on Helium.com under the same username~~
Rose and Ruby Darlen make their dramatic entrance to the world during the famous storm in 1974 which also took the life of a young boy called Larry Merkel. Abandoned by their teenage birth mother the twins are adopted by Aunt Lovey, the nurse who helped to bring them into the world and her husband Stash. The sisters are close, even more so than normal twins as they are joined by a complex maze of blood vessels in their head and can never be separated.
The book opens when Rose and Ruby are 29 years old and have made the record books as the oldest surviving craniopagus twins in history. After learning that the headaches that Rose has been suffering are caused by an inoperable aneurysm which means they do not have long left to live, Rose decides to write her autobiography so that people won't forget them when they are gone.
The book charts their story from their eventful birth to their present lives including their physical decline and feelings about their mortality. The twins had a happy and stable childhood growing up on a farm in the Canadian countryside and are treated mostly normally by their neighbours and friends but trips outside their sheltered world mean that they are the centre of attention and occasional hostility. Aunt Lovey is a strict no nonsense parent who encourages the twins to lead a normal life and teaches them important life lessons such as life is not fair. The twins eventually grow up to live an independent life, each taking part time jobs in the local library but it becomes apparent that their seemingly uneventful lives hide some dark secrets.
The girls have distinct personalities. Rose is a deep thinker who loves reading and sports. Her prettier sister Ruby is a typical girly girl who loves TV, gossip and history and lives each day as it comes. There are chapters in the book written by each sister and they each have their own distinct voice and writing style; Rose is a sophisticated and polished writer but Ruby writes in a much simpler style which sounded almost like a teenager and I thought the author pulled this off really well. We learn about some of the key events of their lives from each of their perspectives and it was fascinating seeing the different way that each of them perceived things that had happened.
Although the girls are closer than any other sisters, they have their own unique personalities and interests which can lead to some interesting arguments. Can you imagine having to live attached to another person without even being able to leave the room if they annoy you? It is clear that the twins have developed an elaborate series of systems and routines to enable them to live together in harmony but some aspects of their lives like their developing sexuality cause some problems. It is clear that Rose feels some resentment at not being able to go to college to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer and you can feel the sense frustration and longing to lead a different life come through sometimes but also a deep sense of love for her sister.
The subject of conjoined twins is something which most people will find fascinating and the portrayal of the life of conjoined twins was mostly realistic-or I assume it was never having experienced being joined to another person myself. There were a couple of minor glitches like one twin having chicken pox while the other was unaffected which I thought would be impossible with a shared a blood supply but Lori Lansens has obviously done her research on the lives of conjoined twins and there were times when I forgot that I was reading a novel and that the twins were not real people which is proof that the writing is good.
The only downside about the book was that I tend to form a mental picture of characters in books when I am reading but this was something I found really difficult with "The Girls". I knew the twins were joined at the head and that Rose was physically stronger but with facial deformities due to the way they were joined. I also knew that Ruby heavily depended on her sister for mobility and seemed to be carried by her but not being able to see the twins in my mind could get frustrating at times. My mental picture of Rose and Ruby tended to change as I learned more about their physical condition and I still can't picture them properly.
This is the first novel by Lori Lansens which I have read and I really enjoyed "The Girls". It was more than the story of conjoined twins and the book did an excellent job of exploring the lives and loves of two extraordinary young women who just happen to share a body.
One of the most moving books I have read, and trust me, I have read a lot of books!
"The Girls" is a fantastic novel written with such delicacy about a subject that can only be described as sensitive!
Ruby and Rose Darlen are the worlds longest surviving conjoined craniopagus twins. "The Girls" follows the trials and tribulations that every day life brings to them. After a rough start in life, with their mother dieing 8 weeks after giving birth, the girls get adopted by a nurse who was present at their birth.
As you will learn both girls are completely different. We learn about their existence that is isolated and strange, but still full with love, travel, work, and even sex!!!
Lori Lansens writes so beautifully and with such empathy for her characters.
This book will make you laugh and cry. It is one not to be forgotten about.
It's hard to fit this book into a particular genre but if I had to choose I would say it's a character driven drama. I hesitate to use the word drama, as it can for some people create a somewhat dull image, and the book is by no means this but I struggle to think of any other genre that this book would really fit well into. It's a fake autobiography and if you didn't know prior to reading it that this was fiction, it would fit well into the autobiography category.
The book is about conjoined twin girls, joined at the head but with separate brains, bodies and personalities. Rose, who always wanted to be a writer, decides to write an autobiography of her life, which of course can't really be told fully, without Ruby, her more reluctant to write sister, contributing her version of their life story. Whilst Rose's parts of the book essentially are autobiographical, telling the 'stories' of their lives, as just that, stories (albeit true ones). Ruby writes more of the present, almost diary like, and reveals things about the present and about Rose writing the autobiography.
The book works so well because the characters are well developed. We get a full sense of the girls (as they are often referred too) from Rose's telling of events that have happened to them throughout their lives, from the way Ruby tells of how they are in the present, from the stories of the young twins that Rose relates from stories she herself has been told by her Aunt Lovey who raised them, and most of all, from not only how the twins think of themselves, but how they think of each other. Although it is an 'autobiographical tale' (fictional though it may be) we don't get the classic problem that most autobiographies feature - and that is that you get a very one dimensional view of the person narrating. If they want you to think they are great, they portray themselves that way, if they want you to feel pity for them they portray themselves that way. This is not the case with the girls, although the tale is told from their point of view, we get a well rounded look at them both, not just the version one of them would want us to see.
We get to learn the girl's personalities so well throughout the book it begins to feel like you really know them, like they are an old friend. This is the intention I believe Lori Lansens had, as when Ruby doesn't really know how to write Rose instructs her to write as if she's writing to an old friend. Although the writing styles of the two girls are so different, and Ruby's sections come across much more like she is talking to a friend, whereas Rose's definitely come across as a book, both make you feel like you are a friend that they are relaying the story of their lives too. Due to this, you grow to love the characters and truly care about them, which is essential for this book to 'work'.
Not only do we grow to love the twins but the characters of their Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash are so well captured by the joint effort of the girls that I couldn't help but love and care about their characters too. It feels like the story only works so well because of both of the girls input. Whilst Rose is clearly the writer, and Ruby often feels like her part of the book might be spoiling it, this is far from true. It takes both parts to truly create an accurate feel for the characters and stories being told. Whilst Rose develops Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash well with background and stories of the characters, Ruby gives them a more personal feel as she displays her memories of them. One part of this without the other wouldn't work so well, but together they are perfect.
Due to the nature of the story being of girls joined at the head who have obviously had a very different life to what most of us live, and with difficulties expected, you may expect this to be a somewhat self pitying or depressing read. This is far from the truth. At no point do the girls seem to be self pitying, there are certain things they obviously never have been able to experience, that we all take for granted, and though this is clear from minor parts of the story it is never hammered home or at any point a dominant message to the book. Although there are times when perhaps the girls would appreciate a time to be alone, or do something they can't do because of their situation, the book never once feels self pitying, or at least only to a believable amount.
Both characters, are very different, which is further illustrated by their different writing styles. Their individual personalities shine through, which I think is a very important aspect to the story. Although both different from each other, both characters are truly likeable and work perfectly together in the story.
With the book being about a somewhat sensitive subject you may worry that it will be almost too PC, or hammering home some sort of message or preaching in a sense. This is not the case and at no point did the book feel like it was tiptoeing round being careful it was saying the right thing or portraying the right image. I'm not sure exactly how Lori Lansens managed it but she got the balance perfect. Whilst the book is unlikely to offend anyone, it never felt like it was having to try. The book felt really, really realistic, and how she captured these characters, who truly seemed to act and think not only like you would expect from their situation, but like any of us would feel in certain situations. The way we can relate to things they are going through means there is no need for any "it made me feel like this" or any bit's of story dragging on to induce pity, it was enough to just say an event, and because we know the character's so well, and also because we can imagine how we would feel in that situation, you actually feel it for them, without it needing to be spoon fed to you.
There were as far as I could see no plot holes and everything fitted together really well and remained truly believable throughout which made the book so much more engaging. There were parts in the book where Rose mentioned something Ruby had previously, or vice versa, and of course had somewhat of a different take on it. It's the classic case of people remember thing's differently or have a different take on events at the time. This was at no point over done. In certain books I've read in the past that are written from two different points of view, sometimes you feel like they are deliberately re hashing the same bit just to point out to you "look we both see this differently isn't that clever!". In The Girls it never once felt like that. One wouldn't mention something only for a few minutes later the other to mention it but in a different light. There were a few subtle bits, where one might have mentioned something way back near the beginning and someone else may mention it much later and most often only briefly touched upon. Again it was enough to emphasise the differences in the girl's personalities, but not too much to feel like it was being forced upon us. It felt natural, and real, the way it would be if this was a genuine autobiography.
Originally my mum wanted me to get her this book for some event last year (mother's day/her birthday/I forget!) and then changed her mind at the last minute. When I had been looking at it in the shop for her it didn't instantly draw me in, to be honest I didn't really fancy it. Then, my mum ended up buying it for me for Christmas (do I detect a bit of - I'll buy something I want so I can use it too hehe) and I still didn't really fancy it, but once I had nothing to read I did read it.
At first I decided just to read a chapter a night but didn't expect to fully get into it. Even at the beginning it was never boring and I did quite enjoy it straight away. Not so far into the book it took a turn I wasn't expecting and from their on in had me a lot more hooked. I wouldn't say it was a slow burner as such, but it was one that the more I read, the more I got into it and the more I wanted to read. I think this is essentially because the more you read, the more you get to know the characters and care more, which is what makes the book as special as it is. I also liked how the book ended, although I'm obviously not going to justify why here as I don't want to risk spoiling anything, but I felt it was a good way to end it and didn't sell out or patronise the reader which is a route I feared it could have taken.
The book on the whole didn't evoke that many emotions from me. I wouldn't say it was tear jerker, nor particularly laugh a minute, it was just truly enthralling. It's definitely a book that I will remember for a long time, and one which I would be more than happy to recommend to a friend. It wouldn't make it onto my re-read list but I don't tend to re read any books (I would perhaps only ever consider re-reading The Time Traveller's Wife and Lorelei's Secret, out of all the books I've read) as there are far too many out there waiting to be read, and the most part of enjoying a story is when you don't know what is going to happen.
I think the book would appeal to anyone who loves a character driven book. It is not essentially the plot as such (the conjoined twin aspect) that would need to interest you, but more if you just love a book that has characters you'll grow to love and care about then this is one for you. It's the characters that make this book and really engage the reader.
There was actually nothing I didn't like about the book, which is very rare, I really think Lori Lansens got everything just right and this would make me look forward to reading another of her books as it seemed this one was so well executed.
Rose is dying, and she's taking her sister with her. Not because she thinks her twin doesn't deserve to live on without her, but because she has no choice. As the oldest surviving craniopagus twins in history, Rose and Ruby are both a single being and two separate people at the same time. Where one goes, the other is right behind, and when one ceases to live, the other begins to die. Joined at the head, abandoned by their birth mother, and the subject of constant fascination, the two have managed to live a remarkably normal life despite the soap opera that surrounds them. Now approaching their 30th birthdays, and with a death sentence hanging over their conjoined heads, Rose has decided to tell the story of their life, from the girls' point of view for the first time.
The Girls is that book, a quasi-autobiography since it tells the story of two people, but their one shared life. Written mainly by Rose but with occasional inserts by Ruby, it is a fascinating story of two very un-normal people trying their hardest to lead a very normal life. This book provides a fantastic lesson in tolerance as you quickly learn how much each twin has sacrificed for the other. Can you imagine only being able to do what you want half of the time, and having to do what someone else wants when it's not your "turn"? It's a horrific thought to me, and so I really feel for the girls as they describe their different likes and interests, and how their sister literally has to come along for the ride.
I also found it interesting to see the two, sometimes conflicting, sometimes consistent view points on things as there are various points in the girls' past that both seek to tell the reader about. Most of the book, though, is new material with each twin picking out the moments that have been most memorable to them. Despite the two narrators, and despite the different approaches they take (Rose, the writer, favours strict chronological order, Ruby is more of an as-I-think-of-it gal) the book reads smoothly, with great momentum building towards the end.
I really wanted to like this book. When I first picked it up and started reading I was hooked, and desperately wanted to know what happened next. But, maybe three quarters of the way through I found myself skimming a few pages, annoyed by the level of detail, especially about the trip to Slovakia that took place a decade before the book was written. Some pages had me engaged much more than others, and though I'd say that on the whole I found 95% of the book brilliant, the remaining 5% did drag at times.
I think those who enjoyed My Sister's Keeper would like this, as it is similar in many ways. I would also recommend The Abortionist's Daughter. These were, incidentally, both Richard and Judy Book Club picks, as indeed this book is. For another book about the state of being a twin, you might enjoy Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. The Girls is a book which not only prompts you to think about serious issues, but also makes you feel like you're reading a proper story rather than some flitty, superficial chick lit. It's a meaty read, both in length and in content, but I would definitely recommend it.
This review was originally published on www.thebookbag.co.uk
I enjoy discovering new authors and I always liked taking part in book awards at school. I was quite excited when I saw that The Book People had all 8 of the Richard and Judy Book Club books for just £9.99 so I did not hesitate to buy them. This is the first one I have read and I really enjoyed it. I was going to buy this book anyway but discovered it was in the book club so it came as part of the set.
~ The Author ~
Lori Lansens was born and raised in Ontario and lives with her husband and child in Toronto. She is a screenwriter and her first novel Rush Home Road has been sold in 11 countries.
~ The Book ~
"I have never looked into my sisters eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. Ive never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. Ive never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or solo walk."
This is how the novel begins. I found it realy powerful and it made me want to read on right from the very first line.
The Girls is a novel about craniopagus twins, (conjoined at the head), Rose and Ruby Darlen. The twins share a major vein so could never be separated. Rose is a fully developed adult but Ruby is smaller and rests on Rose's hips, being carried like a child.
The twins are 29 years old and are the longest surviving craniopagus twins. Rose enjoys writing and as she nears her thirtieth birthday she wants to write her autobiography. Rose wants Ruby to contribute some chapters as they have lived their whole lives side by side. Ruby is less academic and doesnt really like writing but she agrees to contribute some chapters. However, the girls have made a pact not to read each others contributions.
Rose and Ruby were adopted when they were babies, by Lovey and Stash Darlen and despite the girls thinking of them as their parents they call them aunt and uncle. Rose writes quite a lot about her parents and although most of this is relevant to the story of the girls some bits were slightly less compelling than the rest of the book. There are a few chapters, which are just about Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash when they were younger. I think this is not really needed in Rose and Rubys autobiography, however I think Rose enjoys writing about her memories of these stories that her parents have told, even if she wasnt actually there.
The book flows really well and is written in an easy to read style. Rubys chapters are inserted every so often and I really liked these. They were written in a simple style, which is almost conversational. These chapters are also short and I liked reading about the events in their lives from a different perspective. It is easy to distinguish between the two sisters writing because they are in a different font. Their writing style is also a bit different. After reading Rubys first chapter I was hooked on the book as Ruby tells the reader something important which Rose is yet to mention. I was quite surprised when I read this and it made me want to read on. I did find myself getting a little bit confused in the second half of the book as it was a little bit repetitive (both sisters writing almost the same thing about the same event) This did not spoil the book though and I was never confused for long.
There are a few twists and turns in the book and I felt compelled to read more. I grew to love the girls like I knew them yet despite both girls writing with nothing but love for Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash, I didnt feel so attached to them. I think I felt more attached to the girls as they wrote the book. I did enjoy reading about other people in the lives of Rose and Ruby though.
I really enjoyed this book, it is so well written that I sometimes forgot that it is a novel and not a true autobiography. Despite being conjoined, the sisters never think about what life would be like without the other or how it would feel to be separated. I felt the ending was not as powerful as the rest of the book but I thought it fitted in well with the rest of the story so overall it was very good. I would recommend this book for you to read.
I have given this book a mark out of 10 for four different elements of the book. I have then given it an overall rating. I will do this for each of the Richard and Judy Book Club books to see how they compare.
30/40 = 75%
~ Boring Stuff ~
RRP £7.99 (can be found cheaper on Amazon or from the Richard and Judy Book Club)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Virago Press Ltd; New Ed edition (11 Jan 2007)
Thanks for reading!
I first heard about "The Girls" when I was watching Richard and Judy's Summer Book Club, and I made sure I watched when this book was on after hearing a bit about it on the previous shows. The presenters and guests raved about it, and I then decided to buy it. I don't normally buy new books as I can't afford them but I made an exception for this one.
The story is about Rose and Ruby Darlen. What isn't made clear by the cover of the book is that Rose and Ruby are conjoined twins. I think that fact is quite misleading, as when you read the book, you realise it is impossible that the picture on the cover was representative of the novel, a bad decision on the part of the publishers. (I have included a picture of this cover so you all know what I mean). Rose is a fully devloped woman, and Ruby has deformed legs, meaning Rose carries her around like a child.
Rose and Ruby are in fact the world's oldest craniopagus twins, at 29 years old. Craniopagus twins are actually joined at the head. We come into the book a short while before the girls are due to celebrate their 30th birthday. The novel is written in the style of being Rose's autobiograpy, although her sister, being less academic and less keen on reading ad writing, isn't too excited about the idea.
Rose begins by saying "I have never looked into my sister's eyes" and that for me is one heck of a powerful opening line. It sets up an image in your mind of how the girls must look, something you need in order to fully appreciate this book. She starts off introducing the girls' adoptive parents Lovey and Stash Darlen. She graphically speaks of their birth and abandonment by their birth mother, and speaks of the first few weeks of their life with Lovey and Stash. However, the girls never refer to them as Mum and Dad, bbut Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash.
Rose changes between narrating their life for the autobiography to the present day when she starts talking about actually writing the book. At these points, I found it difficult to remember that it was actually a fictional novel, not a real person's autobiography! I actually found the small and infrequent contributions by Ruby Darlen to be amusing and very easy to read. Only a few times did she reminice and even then, she managed to make it light-hearted. I liked very much how Lansens changed the font style for each sister, it made a definite reading difference.
Rose does introduce us and go into a lot of perhaps unnecessary detail about various people the girls have met throughout thei lives, such as a young boy who was swept away in a tornado when he was very young. I found these bits slightly boring and dull, and not all that relevant to the story which was a bit of a shame. What I found was clear though was the enormous friendship and closeness of the girls, never did they express a wish to be without their sister, or to not be conjoined. I found Rose dealt with the obstacles in her life magnificently, particularly choosing to have her own daughter adopted out for fear of her being ashamed of her mum. I found this part of the book particularly emotive.
The final 1/4 of the book was the part of the novel that I found most interesting. The girls approach to their death was very heart-warming, and although we never know what the actual outcome of the lives of thhe girls is, I found this part very emotional and Lansens really excelled herself in her writing style for this part. I loved Ruby's young naivety, despite her age in the excitement for their 30th birthday, and the contrast in Rose's mature almost bored approach was very contrasting, and made the novel far more interesting to read.
I have never heard of an author approaching such a controversial and emotive subject before, and I believe that Lansens really has done the subject complete and utter justice. She must have done a lot of research before writing this, and this comes out in the informative and unpatronising way Lori Lansens writes. I also liked some of the descriptions of places in Canada, they made a nice little added extra into the novel.
I really loved this novel, and I can see why it was shortlisted into Richard and Judy's Summer Book Club 2007. It really made me think about conjoined twins and their feelings, something I wouldn't have done had I not read this book. I found it quite light-hearted considering it's subject matter, amusing in places, and informative and emotive. I would recommend you read this book, sheerly for the experience of reading about this subject, I am sure you won't regret it!
This book will remain on my bookshelf for a long time, and I intend on reading this book again in the near future.