The twin's daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Bloomsbury, 2014. (First published 2010.) ISBN 9781599906614.
The twin's daughter has some elements of the gothic novel. The atmosphere is one of suspicion, a sense of foreboding, mystery and danger. Set in Victorian London, the Sexton's home is lavish and contains the necessary secret tunnel which joins it to the house next door.
The opening line sets the scene for what is to follow, 'I was thirteen the year everything changed with a single knock at the door.' The knock on the door is quickly revealed to be Lucy's mother's long lost identical twin sister who has been brought up in the work-house after having being rejected by those who adopted Lucy's mother. There then takes place a Pygmalion transformation as Aunt Helen is welcomed into the house and lavished with those accoutrements her own life never provided - clothes, education and social graces. Such is the effectiveness of this change that Aunt Helen and Lucy's mother are sometimes mistaken for each other. It is this similarity which provides the twists and turns of the plot. The reader is often invited to question Aunt Helen's real motives even when Lucy embraces her. The 'unspeakable crime' which occurs halfway through the story adds yet another twist. On another layer there is the development of the relationship between Lucy and Kit, the boy next door, which even less experienced readers can predict will end in romance. The minor characters of the neighbours and the aged Aunt Martha who come to visit add little to the story. The themes of guilt, restitution and growing up are really only shallowly explored.
The twin's daughter has the necessary ingredients for a gripping yarn but Baratz-Logsted fails to deliver. The characters are two dimensional and the plot contrived, failing to effectively create the atmosphere which would keep a reader turning the pages. At best it can be described as 'a little bit creepy'.