I didn’t get The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle for review but was hearing a lot about it so borrowed it from a friend. Everyone seemed to find it twisty and had a desire to talk about it after they finished. That’s usually a good sign as it might mean you think you know how it ended but are not quite sure. Of course it’s hard for authors to achieve that balance between…. “WTF just happened?” leaving readers confused with too many unanswered questions; and tying everything up neatly with a bow.
This debut novel by New Zealand author Carlyle was probably a tad more predictable than I had anticipated (given the hype). You know what’s ultimately coming but not how, but it’s certainly enjoyable nonetheless.
The Girl in the Mirror
by Rose Carlyle
Published by Allen and Unwin
Genres: Psychological Thriller
Beautiful twin sisters Iris and Summer are startlingly alike, but beyond what the eye can see lies a darkness that sets them apart. Cynical and insecure, Iris has long been envious of open-hearted Summer's seemingly never-ending good fortune, including her perfect husband, Adam.
Called to Thailand to help sail the family yacht to the Seychelles, Iris nurtures her own secret hopes for what might happen on the journey. But when she unexpectedly finds herself alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything changes.
Now is her chance to take what she's always wanted - the idyllic life she's always coveted. But just how far will she go to get the life she's dreamed about? And how will she make sure no one discovers the truth?
I was intrigued by the ‘mirror twin’ thing as I had no idea such a thing existed. Carlyle herself was a twin so she brings a lot of insight into the relationship between twins without generalising too much. We’re left with the impression it’s almost as if they’re part of a secret club, their ways only understandable to other members.
Interestingly Iris ponders often about what it is that makes her (mirror) twin Summer more attractive, but at the same time talks of the inner beauty (and general niceness) her sister exudes.
We kinda know where this book is heading from the backcover blurb (and yes I read it before starting the book this time!) but we’re certain there’ll be more twists which is what keeps us reading. I think—well, I assume—other readers knew what was ultimately coming we just didn’t know how it would play out and who would ultimately come out victorious.
As soon as I started this I was reminded of a book I read years ago (Charlie, Presumed Dead), the ending of which frustrated me so much that I threw the book across the room. I expected this novel might end the same way (although I’d borrowed it from a friend so would avoid throwing it against a wall!) but it didn’t incite the same response. And I think it’s predominantly because I didn’t ultimately care enough.
I struggled with Carlyle’s writing a little in the beginning. It felt a little simplistically wordy but that feeling disappeared so: I was either in a churlish mood; it improved; I got used to it; or perhaps it was meant to reflect the immature frame of mind of 23yr old Iris and her voice changed as the novel progressed.
I liked the way there’s a bit of a shift in the saint / sinner or good guy / bad guy theme but even though we learn whose side we should be on I hadn’t found them likeable enough to worry about their fate. Of course that’s the danger of a writer when creating an unreliable narrator, which Carlyle has done with Iris.
We’re in her head and we grimace at the conniving and money-hungry thoughts. I’m often happy to play along with a devilish lead character but I think the pacing here – we essentially fast-forward through a time that might have given us more opportunity to engage with Iris – meant it didn’t happen.
Having said all of that I went into this with heightened expectations which isn’t fair on this book (so still giving it four stars). I was the same with Gone Girl and Big Little Lies. I expected something really original or mind-blowing. This novel is certainly great. Lovers of sailing will enjoy the detail we’re offered as the twins set off on the yacht from Thailand. I liked the flashbacks we’re given into the girls’ histories and the insight into their really very horrible father. I mean, what the actual fuck?! I can see why this book is very popular and think it’d be an excellent bookclub read as it would encourage a lot of discussion.
The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is available now.
Thanks to Katie for letting me borrow her copy!