The Girls by Lori Lansens

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The Girls by Lori Lansens

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A fascinating account of a world few readers would ever normally come across. "The Girls" is a touching, engaging and inspiring read about the life of a conjoined twin as articulated by the girls themselves.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: January 2007
Publisher: Virago Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1844083664

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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.

We also have a review of The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens. You might also enjoy The Incendiary's Trail by James McCreet.

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Buy The Girls by Lori Lansens at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Girls by Lori Lansens at


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Magda said:

I can certainly imagine only being able to do what you want half of the time (or less) - I am married and have 2 children.

But I am sure the fact that if I really, really, really wanted not to I could (regardless of consequences) just walk off is a bigger consolation that I can possibly imagine...