The Silent Twins by Marjorie Wallace – Reviewed by Guy Portman
This is the extraordinary story of June and Jennifer Gibbons, identical twins born in the UK in 1963 to parents of Barbadian heritage. Their lives captivated the nation and were the inspiration behind the lyrics of Tsunami by the Manic Street Preachers.
Initially all appeared to be normal with the young twins, but they were soon to withdraw from the outside world, rejecting verbal communication and speaking to each other only through their own private cryptophasia or secret language. Viewed with suspicion by their school authorities the pair were eventually sent to a special needs school.
After leaving school at sixteen the Gibbons sisters withdrew to their bedroom and an imaginary dark fantasy world of doll play and later writing, including voluminous diaries, short stories and novels. Their lives took a sinister turn when they were drawn into sex, drugs and crime through their relationship with some local boys. After a spate of arson attacks, June and Jennifer were convicted, sent to prison, and then to the infamous mental health hospital, Broadmoor, where they were diagnosed with schizophrenia and prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. Unable to live together or apart, the twins’ bizarre love-hate relationship only intensified during their eleven years in Broadmoor, culminating in a death pact and the mysterious death of one twin on the day of their release.
Author and renowned investigative journalist Marjorie Wallace, who established a relationship with June and Jennifer during their long years of incarceration, utilises a matter of fact, non-sensationalist and compassionate writing style to narrate a tragic story that offers an insight into the complex nature of twinship.