“For a start, one of them is dead. But which one?”
This is a very, very creepy novel about twins. I speak as the mother of twins, although my two boys are anything but creepy. They are, however, almost certainly identical, though we’ve never commissioned the necessary blood tests to find out for sure. Growing up they were fun, loveable and despite being twins clearly differed from each other in character.
But S.K. Tremayne’s fictional twin sisters, Kirstie and Lydia, are a very different proposition indeed.
For a start, one of them is dead. But which one?
That is the conundrum at the heart of this utterly gripping story. We find the twins’ parents, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft, mourning the death of their daughter Lydia. Her identical twin, Kirstie, represents a degree of comfort as they struggle to come to terms with their loss of her sister.
But then the grieving process is thrown into total disarray when ‘Kirstie’ angrily informs her parents that they have made a terrible mistake. It wasn’t Lydia who fell to her death in a mysterious accident – it was Kirstie. Lydia is the surviving twin. ‘I’m LYDIA!’ she repeatedly tells them. ‘It was KIRSTIE who died!’
This conjures up a nightmare and at the same time a deeply philosophical quandary. When twins are truly identical, does the death of one have more or less meaning than the death of the other?
“It’s not just that Kirstie increasingly insists that she’s not Kirstie, but Lydia. That is disturbing enough for her grieving parents.”
Most of this story takes place on a remote Scottish island. Angus Moorcroft inherited it from his grandmother and it seems the perfect retreat for him, Sarah and their surviving daughter. Perhaps in this wild isolation they can come to terms with their catastrophic loss.
But can they? As the Moorcrofts decamp from their fashionable London suburb and relocate to a damp, badly wired and shoddily renovated island home, they soon realise that they have simply transferred their problems and family issues to Scotland along with the furniture.
It’s not just that Kirstie increasingly insists that she’s not Kirstie, but Lydia. That is disturbing enough for her grieving parents.
But the seven-year-old finds it almost impossible to make friends with other children at the local school. They are instinctively frightened of the child, sensing a profound disconnect between her and the wider world. She is bullied, ignored, despised. Her mother despairs.
Meanwhile Angus seems to be keeping a secret of his own. What happened in his marriage to Sarah to cause a widening, blank space between them? Did he have an affair? (We soon learn that Sarah did.) And does he know more about his daughter’s death than he is letting on?
This is a wonderfully atmospheric, haunting novel that both of us found utterly compelling. It explores the complex, mysterious nature of the relationship between twins and sets it against the magnificent backdrop of the remote, weather-beaten Scottish islands.
One of those books you keep thinking about long after you have turned the final page.