Double trouble

<strong>Freak of Nature</strong>

Phil Whitaker <em>Atlantic Books, 338pp, £7.99</em>

ISBN 1843

Mick and John are twins with a twist. Conjoined from the chest down, Mick is a doctor, John an aspiring writer. Mick is cold and arrogant. John is lazy and vulgar. Mick has a beautiful wife and daughter. John is a playboy.

Freak of Nature is ostensibly a description of their banal existence living, working and occasionally clubbing in sleepy Oxford. But, in time-honoured fashion, all is not as it seems. An MRI scan reveals that they have but one head. Or do they? From here on in, the tale becomes increasingly philosophical. As the nod to Sartre on the back cover suggests, this is an exploration of The Self.

Done cleverly, as in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, playing around with multiple personalities can be insightful and entertaining. But Freak of Nature is slow, the characters unlikeable and the prose so overloaded with medical jargon that it is difficult to care who or what these two are about.

The author, Paul Whitaker, is himself a doctor who once practised in Oxford and is married with two daughters. One can’t help but wonder if his work is informed less by existential inquiry and more by that perennial masculine fear which – if red sports cars are anything to go by – has consumed many a middle-aged man before him.

This article first appeared in the 05 March 2007 issue of the New Statesman, The great generational robbery