Mistaken

Neil Jordan

First Sentence: I had been mistaken for him so many times that when he died it was as if part of myself had died too.

I’ve never really thought of Neil Jordan as a writer before as he’s usually associated with his films, some of which I’ve enjoyed a lot more than others. This book though surprised me as I found it incredibly engaging and quite moving in places. It is a local book, so I suppose knowledge of Dublin does help heighten your enjoyment. In a way the book might suffer from this as there is literally hardly a page that goes by without some reference or other to a place or landmark in Dublin. It is clear that this is a book about the city that the author grew up in more than anything else. The story itself is concerned with Frank Thunder, a boy from the north-side who is constantly being mistaken for Gerry, a south-side boy who looks uncannily like him. This works both ways and as the cases of mistaken identity become more frequent they begin to use them to their own advantage, right through to adulthood when things take a sinister turn. This is an entertaining novel about memory, identity, and the importance of both. Definitely worth a look.

* * *

Last Sentence: Sometimes an afternoon goes by and I look at two typed pages and wonder, whose life was that?

Last Sentence explained: By the end of the book Frank and Gerry have effectively swapped lives. As we know form the first sentence, Gerry is dead, and it is at his funeral that Frank meets Emily, Gerry’s daughter. This book is addressed to her as Frank finds the only way he can tell the story of himself and Gerry is to write it down. Here is a reversal (the one alluded to in the last sentence) as it was Gerry who was the writer in his lifetime and now Frank has become one. Midway through the book the truth comes out that Frank and Gerry are twins who were adopted into two separate families. As adults, Gerry is a successful novelist who is having an affair with a woman from New York. He cannot bring himself to end the affair so he asks Frank to go to New York in his stead and end it for him. Needless to say things do not turn out well and Frank ends up killing her. Frank then moves to Berlin while Gerry’s marriage fails regardless. He ends up renting Frank’s old room and living with his adoptive father in the house where Frank grew up. The house beside Bram Stoker’s. In this house Gerry effectively becomes Frank, just as after he dies, Frank will effectively become Gerry. This was a good read but at times I found it a little repetitive, not least because of the constant barrage of place names and Frank’s overuse of the phrase ‘apropos of nothing’. Entertaining nonetheless.

Random quote from the book:

“Black taxis soughed through the skin of recently fallen rain.”

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