, secrets, and betrayal Review of Jacqueline Roy’s “In Memory of Us” – a complex story of twins, hidden truths, and deceit.
Identical twins are always a source of fascination, and Jacqueline Roy’s novel charts the lives of a pair, Selina and Zora, who seem even closer than most. “We were joined at the hip – that’s not a metaphor,” insists Zora, in a striking first line; she claims to remember the operation that severed their tiny, conjoined bodies as babies. But separating herself emotionally from her sister in adulthood will prove more difficult.
Zora and Selina were born in south London to a mother who was white and a father who was Black. The story follows their experiences growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, highlighting the racism that their family faced on a daily basis. As the twins’ lives unfold, the reader is taken on a journey filled with unexpected turns and shocking revelations. While some may find the plot to be overly dramatic, it effectively portrays the intertwining of personal struggles and societal prejudices based on race and class.
The unfolding of events is triggered by the appearance of a stunning, charming, deceitful outsider in a once secluded realm; despite the fact that this enigmatic individual is merely a nine-year-old girl. As a child, Lydia manipulates the twins against one another, and later entices both Zora and her older brother Cal.
Roy has authored multiple books geared towards kids and teens, and The Memory of Us is typically written in a straightforward and fast-paced manner. However, at times it can become overly explanatory, particularly in the conversations. Alongside the accounts of the twins’ lives, the reader also gets glimpses into the current life of Selina, who is now in her 70s and suffering from dementia. These intermittent chapters shift between Selina’s disoriented daily routine and her blurred recollections.
Using memory loss as a plot device can add complexity to a story, as seen in Florian Zeller’s The Father. In this case, author Roy uses Selina’s dementia to create a sense of mystery. Selina reaches out to Lydia in hopes of filling in missing pieces from important moments in her life. However, instead of directly asking her questions, Selina hides her condition, prolonging the mystery but making it less believable. It may be more satisfying for readers to follow the chronological story, which centers around how Selina and Zora navigate their relationship.
Jacqueline Roy’s book “In Memory of Us” is available from Simon & Schuster for £18.99. You can purchase your copy at guardianbookshop.com to support the Guardian and Observer. Additional fees may apply for delivery.