“In twenty-nine years, Rose Darlen has never spent a moment apart from her twin sister Ruby. She has never gone for a solitary walk or had a private conversation. Yet, in all that time, she has never once looked into Ruby’s eyes. Joined at the head, ‘The Girls’ (as they are known in their small town) attempt to lead a normal life, but can’t help being extraordinary. Now almost thirty, Rose and Ruby are on the verge of becoming the oldest living craniopagus twins in history, but they are remarkable for a lot more than their unusual sisterly bond.”
Lori Lansens’ The Girls is a beautiful tale of the love between two sisters and their interesting lives as two individuals who must carry out their existence side by side. One of the best things about Lansens’ writing in this book is its ability to pull on those heartstrings – line after line I felt my emotions bubbling up as I read her carefully picked words, describing the highs and lows of life as a conjoined twin. Though I do feel like there was something missing from this book – it took me much longer to read than a novel would usually as I kept getting bored and coming back to it at a later day – it is a touching piece of literature with some very important messages and themes.
Lansens develops the theme of identity throughout the novel by utilising the sisters’ differing voices. As a writer, Rose uses flowery language and images throughout in order to appeal to the reader. Whereas, Ruby’s vocabulary can be described as plain since she simply speaks her thoughts without any modification or embellishment. In doing this, Lansens emphasises that, despite their being conjoined and referred to by various characters as one person or being, they are two completely different human beings with their own identities. This concept is expanded on by the author’s making it clear that the two sisters do not even understand each other as well as they think. Though the two maintain that they are inexplicably connected and can even read each other’s minds, this tends to not be the case. We frequently see Rosie write about the way Ruby feels in one chapter and find this to be the opposite in Ruby’s own proceeding chapter, and vice versa. Lansens expertly uses the two sisters’ differing voices in order to explore the theme of identity and prove that conjoined twins cannot be regarded as one being; they are two completely different personalities that merely happen to be joined physically.
The Act of Writing
This is a hugely important theme in The Girls and one that is explored repeatedly throughout. Both girls constantly refer to the fact that this is an autobiographical piece of work and discuss the thought processes behind their writing. Ruby speaks about her difficulty in writing her chapters as she is ‘not a writer’. However, it can be argued that this makes her the better narrator as she speaks about things very matter-of-factly and, most importantly, truthfully. Whereas Rose behaves in the exact opposite way from her sister – she is an extremely aware writer, editing and reediting her work to make it more appealing to a reader. This is where her writing becomes problematic as she, herself, implies that she is embellishing and editing her life to make it more enjoyable to read, meaning we do not get the full truth and must question the use of the term “autobiography”. Rose, therefore, becomes an unreliable narrator. This is a technique used throughout the years in literature – in novels such as Ian McEwan’s Atonement and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye – and one of my favourites to explore. Interestingly, it is Ruby that scrutinises Rose’s writing perfectly when she writes “I can’t imagine a writer spending so much time arranging words on a page and not caring if someone had a look.” By using this technique in The Girls, Lansens adds to the the idea she puts forth throughout – that (despite their conjoinment) the two girls lead fairly normal lives, so much so that Rose feels the need to embellish hers to make it more interesting.
Have you read this novel? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!
(P.S. I decided to set my review up like this – blurb, overall thoughts and a couple of key themes/ideas – to make it clear and concise but a bit more in depth than your average “I liked it”. Should I continue to set out my reviews in this way?)