Chang and Eng

Chang and Eng In this stunning novel Darin Strauss combines fiction with astonishing fact to tell the story of history s most famous twins Born in Siam in on a squalid houseboat on the Mekong River Chang and

  • Title: Chang and Eng
  • Author: Darin Strauss
  • ISBN: 9780452281097
  • Page: 276
  • Format: Paperback
  • In this stunning novel, Darin Strauss combines fiction with astonishing fact to tell the story of history s most famous twins Born in Siam in 1811 on a squalid houseboat on the Mekong River Chang and Eng Bunker were international celebrities before the age of twenty Touring the world s stages as a circus act, they settled in the American South just prior to the Civil WarIn this stunning novel, Darin Strauss combines fiction with astonishing fact to tell the story of history s most famous twins Born in Siam in 1811 on a squalid houseboat on the Mekong River Chang and Eng Bunker were international celebrities before the age of twenty Touring the world s stages as a circus act, they settled in the American South just prior to the Civil War They eventually married two sisters from North Carolina, fathering twenty one children between them, and lived for than six decades never than seven inches apart, attached at the chest by a small band of skin and cartilage.Woven from the fabric of fact, myth, and imagination, Strauss s narrative gives poignant, articulate voice to these legendary brothers, and humanizes the freakish legend that grew up around them Sweeping from the Far East and the court of the King of Siam to the shared intimacy of their lives in America, Chang and Eng rescues one of the nineteenth century s most fabled human oddities from the sideshow of history, drawing from their extraordinary lives a novel of exceptional power and beauty.

    One thought on “Chang and Eng”

    1. I was really excited and intrigued by the premise of this book, but I was disappointed. The story could have been great if Chang, Eng, or any of the characters had been even remotely sympathetic. The writing was decent, but the story itself was not at all compelling. I felt it lacked dimension and vibrancy and the bleakness made it a chore to read. Told from the Eng’s perspective, all he does is gripe and moan about his situation, regardless of their prosperity or hardship. He is constantly at [...]

    2. I love Darin Strauss' writing and a friend lent me Chang and Eng shortly after I raved about Strauss's latest, his memoir called Half A Life, also superb. This may be my favorite reading experience of this year, and quite different from all the War or the Roses-Tudor-French Revolution historical novels I tend to gravitate toward. In this almost unbelievable yet remarkable story, our improbable characters gently teach lessons of resiliency, love and loss wrapped inside a background of pathos, but [...]

    3. One evening while I was reading--and complaining about--Chang and Eng, my husband asked, "How can you write a bad book about conjoined twins who fathered 21 children between them?" It's a miracle, but Darin Strauss did it. The book was pretty boring due to Strauss's odd structural and stylistic choices. Why go back and forth between the twins' childhood and thier married life? Sometimes shifts like that add intreague to a book, but here it was pointless. Midway through the book I fixed this prob [...]

    4. UGH. I have no problem with people writing stories outside their own race and culture, but only if they do it properly, with compassion and understanding. This is not that book, and instead becomes a tedious exercise in what the worst of cultural appropriation looks like. It might not have been so bad if the author decided to write in third person narrative instead of first, but because he chose the latter, the writing and the voice is all wrong. I got through two chapters before wanting to thro [...]

    5. This fictionalized account of the lives of the original "Siamese Twins" is an entertaining beach read. Strangely, I heard an author on NPR yesterday arguing against the influence of genetic determinants of behavior by citing fictionalized parts of the story as fact.

    6. First of all, I have to admit that I'm interested in the thoughts and life story of anyone who is out of ordinary. Serial killers, lunatics and so on, and so forth. So, when I saw this book, I knew I would be interested in it.It was a bit different than what I expected, but still, I could not put it down. I was always intrigued about how Siamese twins could live together, how they decide on things and I realised that I was right when I thought it was a really hard thing. Because these twins are [...]

    7. I just finished the book this morning and was very saddened by the lives of Chang and Eng. I went online and looked at a couple of websites with more factual information and found that the book followed their lives closely, although adding bits of what could have or might have happened to the storyline. In the end, Eng and Chang had a complicated relationship and wanted to be separated on the one hand, and on the other, they didn't. They needed to tour the world as a freak show in order to make [...]

    8. I had a voyeuristic interest in reading this book, and was surprised that in reading it, I learned something about myself, or about people in general. Our privacy is precious. To not have it for a lifetime would be tragic. Perhaps the most interesting thing to me was how each brother allowed the other to remain an individual. For example, though Eng was vehemently against alcohol and even physically affected by Chang’s drinking, he didn’t put a stop to it though he was the bigger and stronge [...]

    9. I LOVED THIS BOOK FROM BEGINNING TO END. I was a little disappointed after reading it to find out it was a fictional account of their life, but still an interesting read! I find siamese twins and other medical mysteries completely fascinating and I loved the way the author imagines how life might have been for these two. This was a very easy read for me and hard for me to put the book down. The VERY first paragraphs sucked me in from the start and wouldn't break me away: "This is the end I have [...]

    10. This is a powerful and frequently moving book about Chang and Eng, the 19th-century conjoined twins who lived in North Carolina for much of their lives, married two sisters, and fathered roughly 20 children. Although the historical record is scant, Darin Strauss has imagined his characters well; they are very different in temperament and do not get along well at all. Chang is the more outgoing, less thoughtful brother, while Eng (the narrator) is an introvert who longs to be separated from his g [...]

    11. If ever a book was crying out for a dual narrative structure it's this one. Yet it's told solely from the point of view of Eng. Can Darin Strauss really have omitted details from Chang and Eng's remarkable lives and glided over others in order to make up a squalid narrative about unfulfilled longing for one's brother's wife? So it seems.

    12. Since I was the one who suggested this book for my book club, I REALLY wanted to like it. Also, ever since I was a child, I have had an odd fascination with "freaks". Yes, I was drawn to the freak shows at state fairs (never did see anything overly freaky, or legitimately freaky, anyway). Finally, my step mom's book club read this and, according to her, it generated a goodly degree of interest, debate and discussion.I must say, I was disappointed in how Strauss tackled this fictionalized account [...]

    13. This is the fictionalized story of the two famous conjoined twins, Chang and Eng. It is narrated by Eng, who both loves and despises his brother. I kept going between giving this one or two stars, and decided that it was not as bad as some that I've read and given one star to, so two it was.What did I like about this book? Frankly not much. I found not one single character to like or admire. Perhaps I did empathize with Eng at some point early on, but as the novel wore on, he became less and les [...]

    14. The brothers were born on 11 May, 1811 in Siam (now Thailand), in the province of Samutsongkram, to a Chinese fisherman (Ti-eye)[1] and a half-Chinese/half-Malay mother (Nok).[2] They were joined at the sternum by a small piece of cartilage. Their livers were fused but independently complete. Although 19th century medicine did not have the means to do so, modern surgical techniques would have easily allowed them to be separated today. In 1829, they were discovered in Siam by British merchant Rob [...]

    15. Cautionary note--I read this while selling a place, renovating another place and having out of town guests stay, so I didn't really "get into it". OTOH, I don't know if anyone could really get into it. At the end, Strauss stresses that this is just a story based on the Siamese twins. Given that she had free literary reign, he could have been more creative--perhaps explained what Sarah's dark secret was, go into more depth from the children's viewpoints and even more basics of maneuvering life at [...]

    16. This is a fascinating story. I've heard a bit about the co-joined twins, Chang and Eng, but didn't know much. Darin Strauss did a good job getting me interested in them! However, much as I liked the story itself, I didn't like the writing. I honestly thought it might have been translated from another language it was written so strange. It also jumped around in time frames which made the story a little hard to follow along with, and it would have been better to be told straight all the way throug [...]

    17. I really wanted to like this book and these characters-- the premise is fascinating and the story is obviously well-researched, but I never *felt* anything. I wanted to come to some understanding of how these two men and their wives lived their lives, but although I got detail I never got insight. One notable exception: when we learn the true cause of the brothers' house fire, the moment really resonates. Perhaps part of the problem is that there is just so much going on, so much in these men's [...]

    18. Chang and Eng is an interesting attempt to fictionalize the lives of the original 'Siamese' Twins. Following two prevailing storylines - the twins birth to stardom, and the twins marriage to death - Strauss attempts to create a real story packed with the same drama of a fiction novel.While props must be given for the originality of the idea, I felt that beyond the interesting premise there was little to keep me hooked. The scenes of early life and emigration were important, but not tense. The ta [...]

    19. The writing is beautiful. The phrases and descriptions so evokative: "While the world is not a place of widespread kindness, a few oysters thrive in a sea of clams. Occasional grace exists. Mother, knowing my brother and me for more than one child, kept her calm." See what I mean?But the subject matter here is disturbing. (Chang and Eng were the "original" Siamese twins and became world-wide celebrities.) The book is narrated by Eng, and we see envy, pettiness, lust, sloth, and a deep unhappines [...]

    20. Consider the possibilities: Siamese twins! Taken as small children to be presented to the king of Siam, presumably before being killed as a bad omen! Traveling the world and being presented to royalty in Europe as sideshow freaks! Slave owners in the antebellum American South! Married to sisters and fathering 21 children!This book should have been an exciting, if not illuminating, read. Instead it was fairly boring. The author managed to drain all the life and interest out of the story.

    21. This book appealed to a really weird part of me that wonders what it would be like to live within inches of someone my entire life. I don't think I could've handled it half as well as those brothers did.The best part of the book was when Eng thought he was getting away with his antics with Adelaide when Chang was asleep, but really Chang knew.This was mostly a disturbing book but good and interesting at the same time.

    22. I was excited about this book, but soon became uninterested when the fabricated storylines became a little too much. I like historical fiction when it stays as close to the real story as possible. True, there aren't many details about the real conjoined twins. But I would much rather read a book with the few facts than this one that goes overboard on the fiction.

    23. A sweet and sad book abou a very strange historical circumstance. Change and Eng were real Siamese twins who were brought to America, married two sisters, had lots of kids, and died after six decades. This imaginative recreation of their lives mkes for good reading and pondering about life in 19th century America, how we amused ourselves and how pwople lived/

    24. I'm not sure what to make of this book. Was it really good? Was it really bad? It's different. It makes me want to read Geek Love again, which I feel is a much better portrayal of "circus freaks" and a more interesting story.

    25. This is a novel written around the few known facts about the real lives of these conjoined twins. Its known that they were born, never separated, married sisters, had many children, entertained for a living among other things, and how they died. That's about all. So this book really makes you wonder about how their real lives were in comparison to what the author has imagined for us. Surely he's got some points right. They must have had a love-hate relationship. How could you not have that with [...]

    26. Of course these Siamese twins really did exist back in the 1800's and were "exhibited" in shows for many years - and did marry sisters and have 21 children all told - but this story is fiction as not much other than these bare facts were known about the brothers. So this novel is told from the viewpoint of Eng and seeing everything only through his eyes became repetitive and (obviously) one sided. I would have loved to hear from the other twin - Chang - at times (especially for the surprising tw [...]

    27. I feel like this book had so much potential! I loved the beginning. The writing completely transported me into Chang and Eng's world whether they were in Siam, Louisiana, or New York. Not to mention, seeing the world from Eng's perspective was not only unique, but quite interesting. However, about halfway into the story the writing and characters took a turn for the worse. The characters were hopelessly one dimensional as they didn't really grow at all in the book. There wasn't much loyalty or p [...]

    28. It took me quite awhile to read this book. Part of that was due to family issues that came up and preventing me from reading as much as I would have liked, but part of it was the flow of the book. There is a consistent back-and-forth that didn't flow as well as it could have. The book was sort-of interesting, but sort-of tedious as well.

    29. I found this really interesting but seeing as it is written from the point of view of one of the twins, the language seems all wrong. Way too "western"? I don't know. For all its neat little parts, the book didn't feel right.

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