Originally published: 24 January 2019
Author: Julie Cohen
Published by: Orion
Genre: Family Drama
Length: 366 pages
Reading dates: 13-17 January 2019
If you could look at one life in two different ways, what would you see?
I was thrilled to get on the blog tour for Julie Cohen’s latest novel Louis and Louise. Having read Dear Thing back in 2014 and enjoying it, I was keen to read this one as the premise sounded so interesting!
A clever book, Louis & Louise looks at what difference gender can make in the way our lives pan out. We follow both Louis and Louise, both born to the same parents Peggy and Irving Alder on the same day in September 1978 in Casablanca, Maine – but they aren’t twins. Like the concept of a parallel universe we explore the lives of both Louis and Louise and how the differences in their gender impact their lives (I hope I’ve explained that properly!)
The story starts in the same way – Louis and Louise don’t have a close relationship with their parents but when they learn their mother is dying in 2010, both return to Casablanca from their home’s in New York.
Louise is a teacher and single mum to Dana. Louis is married (but estranged) to Carrie and has just published his first novel. Neither have been home for a while and as the story pans out we find out why.
Looking back to their childhood, both children’s lives run along near identical tracks. They have the same parents, the same best friends (Allie and Benny, who are twins), go to the same school in the same town and both have the same ambition to be a writer. But on the night of high school graduation, they both experience a life changing traumatic event, causing them to leave their homes and send their lives in very different directions.
This is a very easy book to read – the premise isn’t as complicated as I’ve probably made it sound and I love the exploration of gender told in a fresh and engaging way. Gradually revealing their childhood while Louise and Louis are caring for their dying mother, Cohen skilfully tells what it was like to grow up in a small town where their father owned a paper mill, which was the main source of the town’s employment.
A fascinating study in how lives can take different turns depending on the situations we find ourselves in. A fab and unusual read.
Many thanks to Orion for sending me proof copy and to Tracy Fenton for inviting me on the blog tour. Be sure to checkout the other stops below…
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.