Mirror Image by Danielle Steel
(Corgi books, £5.99) digested in the style of the original in 400 words
John Crace Fri 14 Jan ‘00 14.41 GMT
I am half the mirror as you will see. My name is Olivia and I am a beautiful, upper-crust twin. We are identical twins, Victoria and I. Not even our bewildered widower of a father can tell us apart. Even after 20 years. And in spite of our radically different personalities. And dress. And manner. And way of speaking. Some say he is blind or dumb or that it is a novelistic cliché anyway, but he really is dumbfounded by our sameness. Truly. If I keep on going, will you believe me? Seriously, I can say it again!
Daddy wanted his children to run his old steel mills for him but we're women and this is the early 20th century so all those petticoated, middle-class women's libbers haven't made any changes yet. Don't tell Victoria I said that - she's my other half, the racy, adventurous one. I am as timid and chaste as a virgin, she is as pure as the driven slush. I, one half of the mirror, she the other. M-i-r-r-o-r I-m-a-g-e. Do you see it now? Are you sure? I can spell it out if you wish, dear casual reader! She married the man I loved. Bitch. Daddy made her do it - she kept on having affairs with rich, handsome men. Which is fine in itself, but they were all married. Daddy said she'd scandalise the family name. So we tied her up and made her marry the most boring, backward, penny-pinching lawyer we could find. His wife had conveniently died on the Titanic. He didn't know what she was doing on it. Travelling to America by herself for God's sake! It's the stuff of trashy bestsellers, not the stuff of life. Anyway, Victoria could never quite suppress her rebellious urges - she attached herself to any passing project that demanded a leap of faith. She wanted to join that big war outside the window. It did look tremendous fun! So, tally-ho, off she went like a bullet. Of course, we couldn't tell papa or her husband so I took her place.
Our father dies (I watch him do so, fighting back the tears). We both fall pregnant - Victoria, the little demon, by another man. I give birth to twins (and yes, you guessed it, they're identical girls). But Victoria dies. What did you think this was - a bloody fairy-tale?
And if you really are pressed: The digested read, digested Remember, sleepy reader, appearances can be deceptive. Identical twins can be completely different. Like a mirror-image. One wants to have babies by her twin sister's husband. Confused? You will be. Just don't ask about the movie rights...