A true story of false memory and lost innocence in one of England’s most respectable families
Imagine waking up one day to discover that you have forgotten everything about your life. Your only link with the past, your only hope for the future, is your identical twin.
Now imagine, years later, discovering that your twin had not told you the whole truth about your childhood, your family, and the forces that had shaped you. Why the secrets? Why the silences? You have no choice but to begin again.
This has been Alex’s reality: a world where memories are just the stories people tell you, where fact and fiction are impossible to distinguish. With dogged courage he has spent years hunting for the truth about his hidden past and his remarkable family. His quest to understand his true identity has revealed shocking betrayals and a secret tragedy, extraordinary triumph over crippling adversity and, above all, redemption founded on brotherly love.
Marcus his twin brother has sometimes been a reluctant companion on this journey, but for him too it has led to staggering revelations and ultimately the shedding of impossible burdens.
Their story spans continents and eras, from 1950s debutantes and high society in the Home Counties to a remote island in the Pacific and 90s raves. Disturbing, funny, heart-breaking and affirming, Alex and Marcus’s determination to rebuild their lives makes us look afresh at how we choose to tell our stories.
Extract from my introduction to Tell Me Who I Am
I recognised them at once. Two men with the same beaky, attractive features and eager grins, both wearing shirts printed with small blue flowers. Not exactly the same, but similar. (Had they randomly chosen floral shirts for this meeting, or was this one of those recurring twin coincidences that are more than mere coincidence? The mysteries of identical … are, to an outside, infinitely fascinating.)
Over the next hour I got an impression of them which grew and developed over the following months, but never fundamentally changed. There were and are two of the most engaging and likeable people I’ve ever met: funny, vulnerable, open, entertaining, self-absorbed and yet in some strange way selfless as well. And they have an underlying innocence that is truly remarkable. I knew the outlines of their story, and knowing what I did, I was astonished by the speed with which they were prepared to trust their history to me, a complete stranger. Just as they now trust their history to you, the reader of this extraordinary saga.
At the end of that first unforgettable afternoon, Alex said to me, ‘I want to write this book because I want to know who I am.’
Because at that stage of his journey, he reckoned he only knew about 30%: the rest was confusion, a cacophony of overlapping narratives, sometimes contradictory, sometimes a blur, sometimes downright wrong. Game on, I thought. The story-teller in me recognised this would be a major undertaking. Forget the urge to name the murderer or follow the hunt for true love and happiness: the quest to uncover his hidden identity was as powerful a motivation as I’ve ever known. And the process of writing the book became a key element in the book itself.
Which makes it a different kind of narrative. If you are looking for a straightforward kind of account, stop right here. Alex and Marcus’s story is infinitely more complex and interesting than that …
Carl Jung: ‘I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.’
‘Enthralling’ – Daily Express
‘ … That the twins are able to tell their story is testament enough to their resilience, and their survival owes a great deal to the support having a twin can provide. The most wrenching admission regarding the abuse comes from their younger brother, who tells the twins he’d always believed he had been the lone victim.
How we respond to this book depends on whether we can reconcile ourselves, as the twins have done, to never knowing the full story. Some readers will simply find its telling too nebulous. Those, however, who are open to narratives skewed and fragmented by memory might find its meandering style to be an accurate echo of life, with its multiple confusions.’ – The Guardian
‘A friend recommended this book to me and, as I have twins, thought it would be an interesting read. It was fascinating.
At times it was disturbing but handled so well that it was still readable. Their strength in overcoming sexual abuse, dyslexia, road accidents and complete memory loss and going on to be successful entrepreneurs and family men is truly inspiring. It is a beautifully written book and well worth reading.’ – Goodreads
Express – Jane Warren
Irish Independent – Emily Hourican
The Sunday Times – Bryan Appleyard