Two sides to every story

I recently finished reading Candy Gourlay’s Tall Story – an incredible book about a boy from the Philippines who travels to the UK to join his family after many years waiting for a visa. Bernardo suffers from gigantism and all the burdens that the condition carries – painful joins, an inability to move at a normal pace, and fainting episodes (touchingly described as the earth falling on top of him).

The book has many marvellous qualities, but one thing that I thought Candy achieved particularly well was the interaction between the two narrators – Bernardo and Andi, his sister. Andi was brought up in the UK, has an English father, and in contrast to her brother, is very short.

In the chapters (written by interchanging narrators) we find out about both characters’ reaction to the same events, their thoughts on each other and their growing friendship. The narrative technique is exciting, as it leaves you desperate to find out what the other character thinks.

Rick Riordan also uses a  brother-sister pair to narrate his series, The Kane Chronicles which is centred on Egyptian mythology. Carter and Sadie sometimes have a difficult relationship and very different ideas of what is important, so their narrated chapters complement each other well. 

And Jacqueline Wilson, an ongoing favourite of mine, uses the dual narrative technique in Double Act, in which twins Ruby and Garnet take turns writing in a journal of their life. Although outwardly identical, they have entirely different personalities. Garnet is much quieter and shier than Ruby, which is highlighted visually through the much shorter length of her entries – she can only write these when given a chance by her bossy sister.

It’s tricky to do the dual narrative well, but inspired by these authors, I might just take on the challenge…

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