Isabel and Jane are the Extraordinary Peabody Sisters, conjoined twins in a traveling carnival freak show—until an ambitious surgeon tries to separate them and fails, causing Jane's death.
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
The Phantom Twin
Author: Lisa Brown
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Publisher: First Second
Page Count: 208
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Cover Artist: Lisa Brown; Illustrator: Lisa Brown
My Rating: ★★★★
I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher, First Second, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! In no way does this affect my rating or review.
Content Warning: Exploitation, Death of a loved one, Prejudice, Attempted burglary
The Phantom Twin is an incredibly easy story to get into. I read this graphic novel in one sitting, in less than an hour. I devoured it. Set in 1920s America, the travelling freak show was a major crowd-drawer. Back then, the world looked very different than it does today, and was naive. Anything “abnormal” automatically drew both unwanted and wanted attention–hence, why the show was formed. It is also why the show had both real and fake “freaks” as people weren’t always the wiser.
For two sisters, Jane and Isabel, also known as Jan-Iss, their condition was nothing but real. Born Siamese-twins, the Peabody sisters were attached at the side, sharing an arm and a leg. Jane, the outgoing, sassy, and domineering twin, wanted nothing more than to get out of the carnival to get married and have a family. Isabel, shy, quiet, and passive felt at home with the family they had created with the other members of the show.
The two are approached one night after a show by a physician who believes he can “help” their situation. Jane eagerly jumps on the opportunity, and drags Isabel to a medical consultation to discuss their options further. The physician, believing their physical separation would be a seamless procedure, encourages the two to undergo the procedure for his own medical career and credibility. What comes of the procedure, however, is the exact opposite of the desired result.
When the procedure is completed at the expense of Jane’s life, Isabel must now go on living for the first time, alone. She undergoes a lot of emotional turmoil and borderline depression, while trying to find her place in the world. Without her sister, and missing an arm and a leg from the procedure, Isabel finds herself having to relearn daily living, and how to compensate for what has been lost.
In regards to the artwork, I found it fitting for the story told. The muted colors give the story an old-timey feel, which is obviously desired. There is also a certain harshness in the childlike artistry that conveys melancholy as well as isolation.
The Phantom Twin is a quick read that easily submerges the reader into the cruel lifestyle on the darker side of the circus, accompanied with loss, but eventually, love.
Sexual content: Minimal – cat calls, jeering, kissing
My Rating: ★★★★
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