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Alva and Irva Dapps are identical twin sisters who live in the city of Entralla. Like the Emerald City, Gondal, and Brobdingnag, only one guidebook to the place exists, and this novel is it. Alva is an explorer who longs to travel the world. Irva is a recluse for whom stepping outside the house is an ordeal. Yet the twins feel each other's emotions, think each other's thoughts, love and hate and suffer as one--they cannot survive without one another. And thereby hangs an inventive tale of creativity, obsession, and genius bred by necessity. Together, the twins build a model of the city on a scale that might accommodate the desires of both sisters and comes to serve Entralla in a way its creators never could have imagined.
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English playwright Edward Carey's novel Alva & Irva is a spirited, inventive tale with a vein of half-ironic sadness running through it that brings to mind the works of other European masters of this genre, namely Günter Grass, Italio Calvino, and Milan Kundera. Named for twin girls who create a plasticine model of their small European city, Alva & Irva is in part the life story of these eccentric twins and also a guidebook to the fictional city of Entralla. Entralla is a place so like countless small, undistinguished cities in Europe (right down to its invented brush with history--a rumor that Napoleon had spent a night there) that one could probably use Alva & Irva as an actual guidebook, standing in any number of piazzas, plazas, and squares, and glancing around at the cafés, cathedrals, chapels, post offices, and municipal buildings. Sometimes Carey overreaches, and the quirks of his characters become merely cute. When he rises above this, his attention to detail and his playful prose are a delight. --Regina MarlerFrom the Back Cover:
“This wonderfully imaginative novel nurtures [the sisters’] disparate personalities while keeping us entranced.” -- Elle Canada
“Carey, whose prose is usually Buster Keaton deadpan, is capable of some fine, moving writing… That Carey is able to make from this a novel which is at the same time funny and melancholy, a near seamless meeting of the absurd and the pathetic, is some kind of triumph.” -- Martin Levin in The Globe and Mail
“Alva and Irva, the sisters and the book that takes their names, embed themselves in the imagination with a force that will surprise no one who has read British novelist Edward Carey’s first book, Observatory Mansions…[T]he great strength of Alva and Irva is the portrayal of the sisters themselves, the best manifestations yet of Edward Carey’s compassion for people on the fringe…[T]hey stand before us with all their imperfections on frank display, daring us to call them freaks but challenging us to look deeper and find what links us to them.” -- Montreal Gazette
“…a book that starts out playfully weird becomes a beautifully affecting -- and eminently topical -- exploration of urban destruction, the persistence of hope, and the human need to memorialize. In the process it turns into a much broader and deeper book: a triumph of pure vigorous imagination -- a sad tale of obsession -- and a grimly plausible portrait of a city overwhelmed by catastrophe.” -- Patrick McGrath in Bomb magazine (US)
Praise for Observatory Mansions:
“Carey’s precise, deadpan prose is a delight.” -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
From the Hardcover edition.
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Book Description Harcourt, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110151007829
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # STRM-0151007829
Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0151007829