Alva & Irva

Edward Carey

21 March 2019
224 pages


One of the strangest – and most tantalising – novels this year' - Metro

The city of Entralla – along with Gondal, Brobdingnag and the Emerald City – is not somewhere you are likely to have visited. Only one guidebook to the place exists, despite its historic landmarks and the considerable civic pride of its inhabitants.

Alva and Irva are identical twin sisters, and Entralla is their home. By nature, Alva is an explorer, and longs to travel the world. Irva is a recluse, for whom every step outside the house is an ordeal. But the twins belong together and cannot survive without each other. It is when Irva refuses to leave the house at all that the major work of their lives begins: Alva wanders the city streets, observing, taking notes, measuring, and reporting her findings to Irva, who painstakingly recreates a miniature Entralla.

In Alva and Irva, Edward Carey takes the reader on an enchanting journey through a city of the imagination; the twins are mesmerizing heroines whose conflicting desires contain the seeds of both their destruction and their salvation.

‘Out of the bleached calico of the tale of the 6ft twins emerges a very witty debate about reality, about the way that people cling to the past, about how people define themselves . . . Carey involves you quietly in the way we live secret lives, the way we try to wring order out of chaos, the way time tinkers with memory and history.’
‘The drama of Alva and Irva, flung apart, then back together, by history and happenstance, is gestural, graceful, balletic.’
‘Carey takes great care to describe Entralla, to make it a credible place, and the love story between his siblings, which passes through infatuation and resentment to reconciliation, is told with real power.’