Alva & Irva by Edward Carey – Guy Portman
Alva and Irva are inseparable, identical twins with different personalities. Irva is introverted, Alva more outgoing. The twins, who come from a family of post office employees, reside in Entralla, a historic and picturesque though largely ignored city, which only has one guidebook.
Our narrator Alva outlines her and her twin’s childhood, including their time at school and life at home with their somewhat neurotic mother. We learn of their various escapades, details of their bizarre relationship, and their remarkable rate of growth. Both Irva and Alva stand six feet two inches tall when fully grown.
As they mature, Alva longs for a sense of identity, and Irva becomes so introverted that she refuses to leave the house. It is during this period that Alva goes out into the city and observes and takes measurements of what she sees. She reports these findings to Irva, who then meticulously constructs their city out of Plasticine. Later a momentous event brings their creation to the public’s attention.
The book contains a map of Entralla, detailed footnotes and photographs of the twins’ Plasticine monuments at the beginning of each chapter.
Alva & Irva is a quaint and quirky novel whose themes include twinship and loneliness. Although many will no doubt consider it enchanting and endearing, this reader found it to be a tepid, distinctly average and one-sided book that largely ignores Irva.