Helen and Ellie are identical twins – like two peas in a pod, everyone says.
The girls know this isn’t true, though: Helen is the leader and Ellie the follower.
Until they decide to swap places: just for fun, and just for one day.
But Ellie refuses to swap back…
And so begins a nightmare from which Helen cannot wake up. Her toys, her clothes, her friends, her glowing record at school, the favour of her mother and the future she had dreamed of are all gone to a sister who blossoms in the approval that used to belong to Helen. And as the years pass, she loses not only her memory of that day but also herself – until eventually only ‚Smudge‘ is left.
Twenty-five years later, Smudge receives a call from out of the blue. It threatens to pull her back into her sister’s dangerous orbit, but if this is her only chance to face the past, how can she resist?
Beside Myself is a compulsive and darkly brilliant psychological thriller about family and identity – what makes us who we are and how very fragile it can be.
A disturbing and uncomfortable book about twins and a life changing game gone terribly wrong.
Ellie and Helen are twins. Helen is the dominant. She is preferred by her mother and a bully for Ellie, who somehow is a bit slower. They live with their widowed mother. Her father killed himself some years ago. Their mother falls into some kind of depression, hardly leaving her bedroom. So the girls are on their own most of the time. One day they decide to swap places and look if they can fool everybody. They change clothes and hairdo and adopt the way of speaking and acting. But they picked a bad day for this game. Her mother met a man and she is bringing him home on that particular day. So she is distracted and gets tricked by the swap. When Helen wants to stop the game Ellie refuses. Somehow nobody believes Helen. Ellie is to perfect being Helen and Helen herself finds her suddenly treated like the outsider with a learning disorder who can’t be trusted and is always messing things up. While Ellie enjoys her new life as the golden girl, Helens life is a nightmare.
The book has a second timeline. There we met Smudge. Smudge of course is Helen. We can see that her life is a mess. She never came around with being Ellie. In fact, she proved that everything was right what everybody expected from poor Ellie. She suffers mental health issues, hears voices in her head. Her twin sisters lives the life she which was supposed to be hers. She is married, has a daughter and a successful job.
This was a difficult read. Smudge is a strange character. Being little Helen she was a spoilt brat who bullied her twin sister. I think she must have mental issues right from the beginning then as soon she is forced in being Ellie she acts strange and is even a better Ellie than Ellie herself would have ever been. The worst person in this book is of course the mother. She is a coldhearted bitch. She suffered a trauma of her own as a child and later dealing with the mental illness of her husband she did not have an easy life. Something in her was absolutely broken that she could tread her daughters and especially Ellie like she did. But nevertheless she is horrible.
Smudge has to suffer a lot and I must admit her could hardly understand her sometimes. She is constantly lying. She has problems with herself and it is a pity that nobody could come through her and was able to help her come around with her life. But after all, she was still herself and later on it was in her hands to make her life better. But she always messed up and never got the help she needed.
This book is a dark drama about mental illness, about how traumatic experiences change your life and how much you are trapped in the person everybody expects you to be. I only give three stars because I found it hard to read and there is really a lot happening to Helen. Everything what could go wrong goes wrong for her. It was sometimes a little bit forced. And the book was too long, some things are too long explained. Also I would have loved to see more of the real Ellie. The book is focused on Helen/Smudge.
I don’t know if I would recommend it. It is a depressing book and not one you can “enjoy”.
I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review