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Alva & Irva


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About the Author

Edward Carey was born in 1970. His acclaimed first novel, OBSERVATORY MANSIONS, is also published by Picador. He lives in London and France.


In the spirit of his well-received first novel, the modern gothic Observatory Mansions, Carey crafts another fantastic tale, this one revolving around a pair of lonely identical twins. Alva and Irva live in the imaginary (vaguely Nordic) city of Entralla. Their father dies the same day they are born, and the twins are brought up by their reclusive mother. Inseparable from the beginning, they are also polar opposites: Alva, the novel's narrator, longs to see the world, and Irva, her silent twin, is content to stay home forever. When they are still very young, a gift of plasticine inspires them to build a model of their street; soon they are building an imaginary city, Alvairvalla. But then they grow older, and Alva craves independence, finally taking a job at the Entralla post office. Shut up in her room, Irva withdraws further, and Alva torments her by having herself tattooed all over with a map of the world. But in the end the tattoo haunts her and catapults her back into her sister's greedy embrace. Together, the two embark on their greatest plasticine project yet-a model of the whole city-little suspecting how useful it will become after disaster strikes Entralla. Structured around whimsical guidebook entries describing the landmarks of Entralla, and illustrated with photographs of buildings molded out of plasticine (Carey created his own two-by-three-foot model of the city), the novel casts a powerful if sometimes stifling spell. Carey is an enormously talented writer, but here the cleverness of his conceit tends to overshadow his characters, precipitating a slide into archness. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"This wonderfully imaginative novel nurtures [the sisters'] disparate personalities while keeping us entranced." -- "Elle Canada
"Carey, whose prose is usually Buster Keaton deadpan, is capable of some fine, moving writing... That Carey is able to make from this a novel which is at the same time funny and melancholy, a near seamless meeting of the absurd and the pathetic, is some kind of triumph." -- Martin Levin in "The Globe and Mail
"Alva and Irva, the sisters and the book that takes their names, embed themselves in the imagination with a force that will surprise no one who has read British novelist Edward Carey's first book, Observatory Mansions...[T]he great strength of Alva and Irva is the portrayal of the sisters themselves, the best manifestations yet of Edward Carey's compassion for people on the fringe...[T]hey stand before us with all their imperfections on frank display, daring us to call them freaks but challenging us to look deeper and find what links us to them." -- "Montreal Gazette
.,."a book that starts out playfully weird becomes a beautifully affecting -- and eminently topical -- exploration of urban destruction, the persistence of hope, and the human need to memorialize. In the process it turns into a much broader and deeper book: a triumph of pure vigorous imagination -- a sad tale of obsession -- and a grimly plausible portrait of a city overwhelmed by catastrophe." -- Patrick McGrath in "Bomb" magazine (US)
Praise for "Observatory Mansions":
"Carey's precise, deadpan prose is a delight." -- "Publishers Weekly" (starred review)

"From the Hardcover edition."

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