Book Review: Louis & Louise by Julie Cohen

louis & louiseAbout the Book


Louis and Louise are the same person born in two different lives. They are separated only by the sex announced by the doctor and a final ‘e’.

They have the same best friends, the same red hair, the same dream of being a writer, the same excellent whistle. They both suffer one catastrophic night, with life-changing consequences.

Thirteen years later, they are both coming home.

A tender, insightful and timely novel about the things that bring us together – and those which separate us, from the author of Richard & Judy recommended book Together

Format: Hardcover, ebook, (304 pp.)    Publisher: Orion
Published: 24th January 2019                Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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My Review

Despite its clever concept, questions about gender identity came less to the fore than I was expecting. I found myself wondering how much of what happens to Louis/Louise in the book is actually a product of their gender and social stereotyping and how much (aside from things that have obvious biological limitations) might have happened to either of them anyway? Some key events, such as bereavement, happen to both of them, others to only one. It seemed to me that this determined what followed as much perhaps as the fact of their gender.

The author juxtaposes Louis and Louise who are two iterations of the same person with Allie and Benny, non-identical twins who nevertheless look alike. At times, I felt the story became more about Allie and Benny as it is they who propel many of the events.  Also, I did find it a little difficult at times to remember what happened in each life (especially as both characters are often referred to as ‘Lou’) and had to resort to drawing myself a chart.

In Casablanca, Maine, the reader gets an evocative portrait of small-town America. A place that has become slightly rundown over the years due to the impact of economic decline but where everyone knows everyone else and life is built around community events and small acts of neighbourliness. There were some clever touches such as the fact the book Louis writes is about a woman who posed as a man. I also really liked the depiction of the relationship between Louis’s mother and father. Even when separated there was a touching love and understanding between them.  And there were unexpected elements of melodrama between the subtle character studies that exemplify Julie Cohen’s writing.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of publishers, Orion, and NetGalley.

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In three words: Intimate, character-driven, well-observed

Try something similar… Oliver Loving by Stefan Merrill Block (read my review here)

Julie CohenAbout the Author

Julie Cohen grew up in the western mountains of Maine. Her house was just up the hill from the library and she spent many hours walking back and forth, her nose in a book. She studied English Literature at Brown University and Cambridge University and is a popular speaker and teacher of creative writing, including classes for The Guardian and Literature Wales. Her books have been translated into fifteen languages and have sold nearly a million copies; Dear Thing was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. Julie lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and a terrier of dubious origin. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)

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