Beside Myself: A Novel by Ann MorganBeside Myself: A Novel by Ann Morgan

Beside Myself: A Novel

byAnn Morgan

Hardcover | October 30, 2018

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A page-turning and darkly brillliant psychological thriller about the fragility of what makes us who we are.
     Six-year-old Helen and Ellie are identical twins, but Helen is smarter, more popular, and their mother's favorite. Ellie, on the other hand, requires special instruction at school, is friendless, and is punished at every turn. Until they decide to swap places--just for fun, and just for one day--and Ellie refuses to switch back. Everything of Helen's, from her toys to her friends to her identity, now belongs to her sister. With those around her oblivious to her plight, the girl who used to be Helen loses her sense of self and withdraws into a spiral of behavioral problems, delinquency, and mental illness. In time, she's not even sure of her memory of the switch.
     Twenty-five years later, she receives a call that threatens to pull her back into her sister's dangerous orbit. Will she take this chance to face her past?
ANN MORGAN is the author of The World Between Two Covers, based on her year-long journey around the world via books from every country. She continues to blog about her adventures with world literature at ayearofreadingtheworld.com. Morgan's writing has also appeared in The Independent, The Financial Times, The Scotsman, BBC Culture, an...
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Title:Beside Myself: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9.63 × 6.39 × 1.23 inPublished:October 30, 2018Publisher:Bloomsbury USALanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1632864339

ISBN - 13:9781632864338

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A well rendered, chillingly dark, and very unsettling novel of family dysfunction What makes you ‘You’? What if your identity was in question? Is identity irrevocably linked to what others ‘expect’ of you? These are the questions posed in “Beside Myself“. Told in two time periods, twenty-five years apart, it is the story of identical twin girls, Helen and Ellie. As in many relationships one twin was a ‘leader’ (Helen) whilst the other was a ‘follower’ (Ellie). When they are six years old Helen decides one day to trade personas, trade clothes, and fool those around them (including their mother). She realizes only too quickly her tragic mistake. She finds herself on a slippery slope with no hope of a ladder. For Ellie is enjoying being the smart one, the popular one, her mother’s favorite. Ellie won’t switch back. Helen is desperate to make others aware of her plight but no one believes her… Fast forward in time twenty-five years. The reader is introduced to Smudge. Great name in this case as her identity has been smudged away. A down and out artist. Drinks too much, smokes too much, is promiscuous, lives in squalor. Smudge is mentally ill. She hears voices and her paranoia threatens to overwhelm her. Now the reader questions their earlier assumptions that Smudge is really a grown up Helen. Could she in fact be Ellie??? Smudge receives a phone call from her mother letting her know that her sister has been in an accident and is now in a coma. Acting all her life, ‘Hellie’ is now a successful television actress. She is the successful one, the beautiful one, the one with a husband, a daughter … a life. There have been many novels penned about twins. So interesting to have two separate personalities who look identical. We can’t resist wondering what it would be like. After reading this novel, I NEVER want to find out. I was filled with angst and misgiving much like the feeling I used to get watching old movies where the heroine was committed to a mental hospital when there was nothing wrong with her. The injustice of it all! Smudge is a beguiling and well wrought character that the reader just cannot help but empathize with. Her sadness and loneliness make you ache for her. “Beside Myself” underscores just how fine a line there is between love and hate. This novel also paints an alarmingly vivid portrait of mental illness. But was the mental illness caused by the events? Or… were the events caused by the mental illness? Or, is heredity the only cause? If you live a lie long enough, does that lie become truth? A well rendered, chillingly dark, and very unsettling novel of family dysfunction, “Beside Myself” will be enjoyed by all fans of the psychological thriller genre. This review was originally published on the blog: Fictionophile
Date published: 2016-01-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great premise I went to high school with a pair of identical twins. It was darn near impossible to tell them apart. They did have different personalities and interests and as time progressed it was quite easy to tell which was which. But, they did like to play games. They would occasionally attend each other's classes, with the teachers being none the wiser and would find great fun in pretending to be the other in social situations. And that's the premise behind Ann Morgan's new book - Beside Myself. Helen and Ellie are twins. Helen is seemingly more intelligent than than Ellie. One day, Helen decides that it would be fun to switch identities for a day to fool people. But when the day is done...Ellie decides that she has no intention of switching back. And no one believes a word Helen says when she insists she is Helen, not Ellie. Turns out Ellie was a little smarter than Helen gave her credit for. But...."If I keep just keep being Helen, I tell myself, then sooner or later the truth will be there for everyone to see." Or will it? When I first saw the synopsis, I was intrigued - I love psychological twisty thrillers. But Morgan's story unfurled in a way I hadn't predicted. The driving force and voice behind Beside Myself is that of the original Helen, now an adult. We are treated to flashbacks of childhood and of original Helen's life as the years go by, told in an erratic timeline. Helen has lived her life as Ellie - the twin not expected to amount to much, with her limited intelligence and her emotional and mental instability. Now living life as her twin, Helen manages to fill Ellie's shoes, descending into a life of drug abuse, mental illness and poverty completely alienated from her family. In the present day, original Ellie is in a coma and her husband is desperate to find her sister, hoping that will help to wake her up. And so the twin's lives will cross paths again. Will the truth ever be revealed? Beside Myself isn't really a thriller, but instead is a exploration and descent into the madness and mind of a severely damaged woman. I found many of the scenes and circumstances difficult to read. Helen is not the only damaged person in her family - Mom has her own issues. This is a dark read, with language and situations that suck the reader into the murk that is Helen's mind and world - a truly scary place. Readers will have to be on their toes in the beginning of the book to keep straight who is talking - it it Helen - or is it Ellie? And you might need to take a break from the intensity of Helen's madness - I had to. But I'm in awe of Morgan's writing and depiction of a mind in chaos. Morgan throws in a nice twist at the end that was unexpected.
Date published: 2016-01-13

Editorial Reviews

"The World Between Two Covers is an exquisitely written book that manages to be both a compelling quest narrative and a moving exploration into the joys of reading. Ann Morgan is a wonderful writer--astute and accessible, lyrical and lush--and this is a book so compelling it's impossible to put down." - Molly Antopol, author of THE UN-AMERICANS, on THE WORLD BETWEEN TWO COVERS"In her lively, debut book, journalist and blogger Morgan, regretting that she has been 'a literary xenophobe,' recounts her project to spend a year reading one book, translated or written in English, from every country in the world . . . Morgan's intrepid literary project underscores the crucial importance of stretching the boundaries of one's aesthetic and intellectual worlds." - Kirkus Reviews on THE WORLD BETWEEN TWO COVERS"As journalist Morgan relates in this introspective debut, she took it upon herself to learn more about international literature after looking at her shelves and realizing that her reading has been almost exclusively British and North American . . . The book's themes include the difficulties of getting published in other languages, the imperfection of translation, and the inequities of a global cultural tradition still dominated by Western imperialism . . . The reward for readers in this volume is a greater appreciation for global literature and the inspiration to reexamine one's own reading habits." ­ Publishers Weekly on THE WORLD BETWEEN TWO COVERS