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Chang and Eng

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,387 ratings  ·  183 reviews
In this stunning debut 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 t ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Dutton Adult (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,306)
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Julie
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 o ...more
Karen
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
...more
Alyce
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....
Nancy
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 stronger of ...more
Jennifer
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 ...more
Dorottya
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 a
...more
Noel
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 ...more
Sandy
Sep 20, 2008 Sandy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandy by: "Employee Favorites" display at a book store.
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
...more
Sterlingcindysu
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 ...more
Elaine
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 ...more
Wanda
Mar 06, 2010 Wanda rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: book club
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
...more
Emily Bailey
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 ...more
Book Concierge
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
...more
Margie
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.
Holly
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.
Lwf
Picked up this book at goodwill as I've always been curious how these two brothers lived their lives conjoined, getting married and fathering over 20 children.

This book is written from the viewpoint of brother Eng, written from history and fiction. A very interesting idea by the author to fill in the blanks to make a complete "biography" of these two brothers.

This first book by this author was a very well thought out and written. The story was believable, although I hope he was wrong on most
...more
Steve
Nov 28, 2008 Steve rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction lovers
Recommended to Steve by: no one
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/
J.T. Wilson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Helen Varley
this was an interesting novel, based on the facts of the true story of siamese twins chang & eng bunker, with a lot of imagination and poetic license. strauss paints a convincing picture of the life of eng, trapped with his intellectually inferior brother, and imagines how their marriage to sisters came about and was lived. the worlds of the kingdom of siam and the usa's southern states at the time of the end of slavery are well-described and contrasted. however the latter could have been ex ...more
Corielle
Darin Strauss states right off the bat that his novel, Chang and Eng, is just that: a novel. He has taken real historical events: the birth of the conjoined twins in Siam, their kidnapping by the king, their return to their family only to be sold to an American entrepreneur, their gradual retirement from the "freak show" life and subsequent marriage to two sisters in North Carolina, followed by dozens of children and decades of sadness; he takes all this and weaves a narrative around it all.

Stra
...more
Teri Christman
Loved this book!! What a great, heartwarming story.
Jennifer
In this well-researched historical novel, Darin Strauss transforms the image of Chang and Eng Bunker from circus freaks to fully realized human beings.These conjoined twins were born in Thailand, giving rise to the term "Siamese twins." Strauss unflinchingly explores the difficult but necessary questions that let us see these conjoined twins as the individuals they were. What were the physical,social, and psychological ramifications How did they feel about being conjoined? How were they able to ...more
Meghan
This is probably the third book that I don't pay attention to the cover and think it's nonfiction, despite the big banner right in front saying "A Novel". Sigh.

I liked the story. It is based on the real life "first" Siamese twins (I have no idea why it never occurred to me that meant the twins were from Siam/Thailand). I thought Strauss did a decent job researching the life and times and crafted a fairly interesting supposition of their lives. But I felt the story was far too heavy on Eng's unre
...more
Mike
DNF at 120 pages. I didn't think it would be possible to make a book about conjoined twins boring. I thought that even if it was poorly-written, it would at least be interesting, from a historical perspective and because it's about such a unique subject. But, alas, Strauss failed to make it interesting, and I was bored throughout reading it. Sadly, I already donated the book to Goodwill, so I can't give the full review that I had hoped for. But here are some points I would've made:

1.) Chang and
...more
Kimberly Fujioka
I loved this book from the beginning to the end. It is so much better than I thought because the main character is so multifaceted. It really makes you think about so many things--how our obsessions with other people keep us going. Eng is overly fascinated/obsessed with another character (I won't say who) and it is really insightful how the author keeps it going and, in the process, shows us(the reader) how our obsessions reveal so much about who we are as human beings. We as readers get to know ...more
Empress5150
Jul 13, 2010 Empress5150 rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Empress5150 by: Margot/Book Club
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
...more
Peggy Walt
When I was a child I borrowed a book about Barnum and Bailey from the library, and I remember that there were photos of several of the so-called "freaks" that Barnum exhibited, including Chang and Eng. I didn't know there was a novel about them, so was quite intrigued to find this book this summer.

Darin Strauss does a great job imagining the lives of Chang and Eng, and through his portrayal of first-person Eng sensitively creates a character overlaying the few facts we know about the twins. Wit
...more
Kat
Darin Strauss's first book started with a bang, just like "more than it hurts you"--but after about 100 pages, I didn't really want to read it anymore.

It is arguable that the reason why I didn't like it says more about me than it does about the book: In his notes on the last page, Strauss writes that though based on skeleton facts (birth, locations inhabited, marriages, # of children, etc) of the real Siamese twins lives, the story comes out of his imagination and should not be thought of as "h
...more
Jessica
Oct 27, 2009 Jessica rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: WPL Tues Book Group
Shelves: fiction
I bought this in 2002, started reading it in 2009 and then stopped 100 pages before the end and forgot about. Guess it didn't make that big an impression. Luckily I was able to pick up where I'd left off and finally finish it (4 years later and 11 years after buying!)I'm no quitter!

Using the real Chang and Eng as inspiration for this novel seems like a mistake to me. This is a novel - not even a historical novel, per se, although the war does factor in to some extent - but it is very difficult f
...more
Sarah
This was somewhat disappointing, though I don't know exactly what I was looking for. This is a fictional account of Chang and Eng, the famous Siamese Twins (for which the term Siamese was coined). This novel goes back and forth between their birth and childhood in Siam and their adult lives and marriage to sisters in North Carolina.
The pacing between the time periods was fine, but I didn't find the characters very enlightening. No one is very likeable or sympathetic, which makes you wonder at t
...more
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A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and a winner of the American Library Association's Alix Award and The National Book Critics Circle Award, the internationally-bestselling writer Darin Strauss is the author of the novels Chang & Eng, The Real McCoy, and More Than It Hurts You, and the NBCC-winning memoir Half a Life. These have been New York Times Notable Books, Newsweek, Los Angeles Ti ...more
More about Darin Strauss...
Half a Life More Than it Hurts You The Real McCoy Long Island Shaolin More Than It Hurts You

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