What are you like? by Anne Enright (Vintage £6.99 in UK)

Sat, Mar 3, 2001, 00:00

The plot of Anne Enright's novel What are you like? is as ancient as storytelling itself. Twin baby girls separated at birth, move through the story to a point where they meet each other. In Enright's extraordinarily talented hands, the plot informs every aspect of the girls' lives so that both Marie and Maria, although unaware of the other's existence, live their young, and very vivid lives defined by a sense of displacement and loss. Maria, brought up in her native Dublin by her father, drops out of college, loses herself in New York and has a breakdown. Marie, who was adopted, is brought up in a London suburb by well-meaning liberal parents. She rebels as a teenager but settles into a career in social work for which she is totally unsuited - due to her almost raw emotional responses. The style is taut, superbly crafted and funny, as Enright describes with wincing accuracy the sense of longing in ordinary lives, family relationships and the internal workings of two young women's minds. This superb book was shortlisted in the novel category of the recent Whitbread awards. An unmissable read.