Monday, 30 October 2017

Read in 2017 - 34: Those Extraordinary Twins

Every now and then, I remember how much I actually like Mark Twain. Most people know his name in connection with books that have become classics: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. They were the ones I associated with Mark Twain (i.e. Samuel Clemens) all during my childhood and youth, and only much later (in my forties, really) did I learn more about Twain and his work.

Sometimes you come across questions such as "Which person (from past, present or future) would you like to have dinner with?". Mark Twain would definitely be on my guest list!
There are two more reviews of books he wrote on my blog; simply type "Mark Twain" in the search box at the top left corner of my blog, if you want to read them.

Back to "Those Extraordinary Twins": This was a typical Mark Twain story. Absurdly comical in places, but with a sad undercurrent, and of course absolutely NOT politically correct for the average reader in 2017.

The book is mentioned in this wikipedia entry here. From it (and also from the story's own foreword), we learn that it is a spin-off of another story, Pudd'nhead Wilson.

Wikipedia says that "Twain originally envisioned the characters of Luigi and Angelo Capello as conjoined twins, modeled after the late-19th century Italian conjoined twins Giovanni and Giacomo Tocci [real-life conjoined twins]. He planned for them to be the central characters of a novel to be titled Those Extraordinary Twins.

During the writing process, however, Twain realized that secondary characters [...] were taking a more central role in the story. More importantly, he found that the serious tone of the story of Roxy and Tom clashed unpleasantly with the light tone of the twins' story. As he explains in the introduction to "Those Extraordinary Twins":
The defect turned out to be the one already spoken of – two stories on one, a farce and a tragedy. So I pulled out the farce and left the tragedy. This left the original team in, but only as mere names, not as characters.
"Those Extraordinary Twins" was published in 1894. For me, it was (of course) a free ebook at Amazon's Kindle store. I enjoyed the rather short read as a good example of Twain's way to express complex themes, not forgetting his humour, but I must admit there were some bits I expect a modern reader may find offensive. Seen in the light of when it was written, and taken with a pinch of salt (as you should always do when reading Twain), it is well worth some of your time.


  1. Sounds like an intriguing title, and you know, I have never heard of it! I will look out for it. I'm having a binge of reading books by classic authors right now.

    1. I would like to know what you think of it, Jenny. It surely isn't something I would recommend to someone not familiar with Twain's style.

  2. I love Mark Twain although he is occasionally somewhat dated. I don’t know this one and as it’s free I shall download it onto my Kindle.

    1. Enjoy, Friko! It will be interesting to read what you think of this book.