Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen |Blog Tour |Book Review

Published by Orion
Available in ebook and hardback (24 January 2019)
304 pages
Source: Review copy received from publisher

About the Book

ONE LIFE. LIVED TWICE.

Louis and Louise are the same person born in two different lives. They are separated only by the sex announced by the doctor and a final ‘e’.

They have the same best friends, the same red hair, the same dream of being a writer, the same excellent whistle. They both suffer one catastrophic night, with life-changing consequences.

Thirteen years later, they are both coming home.

A tender, insightful and timely novel about the things that bring us together – and those which separate us.

My Thoughts

I’m delighted to be starting off the blog tour for the publication of Louis & Louise together with fellow blogger Kerry of Herding Cats, my thanks to Orion for the review copy and to Tracy Fenton for the invitation to take part.

One life, told two ways.

Meet Louise. A red haired daughter born in 1978 to Peggy and Irving Alder.

Meet Louis. A red haired son born in 1978 to Peggy and Irving Alder.

We follow both Louis and Louise from childhood through to adulthood. They have the same friends, the same ambitions to be a writer, they go into and out of relationships and have the inevitable parental issues to deal with in later life. However they are not really treated equally.  Because of that ‘e’ and their gender, society and their families treat them differently, not only in emotional and practical terms, such as inheritance, but in expectations.

Aged 18 on graduation night, something happens to Louis and Louise which will have a life changing effect, the memory of which they will never forget. It’s enough to make them leave the paper mill town of Casablanca. Maine and not return for many years until they are called back by family.

Told by Louis and Louise in their separate voices, with other chapters being non-gender specific (‘Lou’) and which relate to both of them, I was completely absorbed by both their stories and the path that they had taken.  There are some dark times for Lou and some quite emotional moments.

It’s a Sliding Doors type of book – some of the characters are not necessarily in the same situations in both realities and although initially, this threw me a little once I’d got my head round it, it wasn’t an issue at all.

There is a real sense of place in the setting of the story, not only in the vivid description of the location but also that of the townspeople and you really have that feeling of small-town America with its prejudices.  The paper mill, owned by generations of male (not female) Alders, is the town’s main employer and although it enables people to live, its foul smell poisons the atmosphere.

Aside from Lou, there are some excellently drawn supporting characters who are integral to the story, including Dana, Louise’s petulant teenage daughter, Irving their father, Allie the best friend – they all stood out for me.

I’ve always loved Julie Cohen’s writing and this book is possibly one of her best.  It’s beautifully written with a narrative that is both poignant and thought provoking. She says in an introduction that it could be the most personal book she has written – this certainly comes across in the novel for me.

There are many themes explored here, including gender, sexuality, and forgiveness. I enjoyed it very much indeed and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

About the Author

Julie Cohen grew up in the western mountains of Maine. Her house was just up the hill from the library and she spent many hours walking back and forth, her nose in a book. She studied English Literature at Brown University and Cambridge University and is a popular speaker and teacher of creative writing, including classes for The Guardian and Literature Wales. Her books have been translated into fifteen languages and have sold nearly a million copies; DEAR THING was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. Julie lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and a terrier of dubious origin.

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