Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen
|Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: A moving, intriguing, engaging story that looks at gender and sexuality, love and family, grief and forgiveness.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: January 2019|
|External links: Author's website|
What would you be like, right now, if you'd been born a different gender? Would it simply be a matter of genetics, and your life would still have unfolded in the same way? Or would the way you had been raised affect who you became in life? This latest novel by Julie Cohen looks at all of the above, covering the stories of Louis and Louise, born on the same day, to the same parents, but in one storyline Lou is a boy, and in the other a girl. Does it really make a difference, the gender box that is ticked when we arrive in this world? We all know that men and women are treated differently, but this story really highlights how things have been in the past, how they still are, and prompts you to think about how they could be...
The story moves between being about Louis, or being about Louise, or just being about Lou (so about both of them). As confusing as that might sound, it never interrupted the flow of the story, as you somehow naturally understand the ebb and flow between the two characters as you read, the points where their stories are the same and then those when they diverge. I really liked how the stories met and parted, moving in parallel then diverging away. I liked the differences that are highlighted, and then the sense that they could be/were the same but for their gender.
Most of Julie's books have been set in the UK, so it was good having the small-town America setting for this one, with the town coming to life in my mind and seeming very real. I could imagine the town where they'd grown up, and their childhood it's wonderfully drawn. Whilst much of the book feels very current and contemporary, it also has the wonderful, timeless feel of a family generational drama. Both Louis and Louise are engaging characters, and though I naturally felt I identified more with Louise, both stories had me thinking. I liked the unfolding of who they each were, and why. Julie's skill also lies in creating an entire cast of people you care about and want to read more about. I always find I have a sideline character who I particularly care about, and this time it was Louise's daughter, Dana.
Much of the story revolves around dealing with terminal illness, so there are some very dark moments in the book, and extremely emotional moments too. They're all handled gently, and with care. I also really liked that in some ways the story felt a little like a mystery, with the unravelling of what pushed both Louis and Louise away from their hometown, and what resolutions they both need to come to, to be able to move forwards in the future. Again, the reveals on this are quite dark, but again it's all handled sensitively.
It's a beautifully written, lyrical story, that leaves you thinking about what our different genders mean, how both genetics and life experience impact on who we are, and that whilst we've made many advances in societal judgements based on gender and sexuality, we still have a long way to go.
You can read more book reviews or buy Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen at Amazon.com.
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