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Chang and Eng

3.29  ·  Rating Details ·  1,611 Ratings  ·  218 Reviews
Now in paperback comes the brilliant reimagining of the remarkable lives of the original Siamese Twins. 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 19th century's most fabled human oddities from the sideshow of history.
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Turtleback Books (first published 2000)
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May 26, 2010 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, fiction
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
Jan 19, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
Jul 19, 2013 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sezín Koehler

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
Jul 31, 2008 Alyce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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....
Jul 12, 2013 Dorottya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Aug 24, 2008 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  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
J.T. Wilson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2009 Empress5150 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Feb 11, 2010 Wanda rated it it was ok  ·  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
Jan 18, 2012 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Erin Lindsay McCabe
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 ...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
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.
Jul 01, 2009 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Leah Dunbar
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.
Nov 28, 2008 Steve rated it liked it  ·  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/
May 31, 2015 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Teri Christman
Jul 23, 2013 Teri Christman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book!! What a great, heartwarming story.
Jun 18, 2017 Joe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hit some interesting themes about self and loneliness early on, but ultimately I felt like the book just cruised on those same themes for the remainder without a lot more elaboration.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elise Thanasouras
Jan 17, 2017 Elise Thanasouras rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on life of real conjoined twins from Thailand and the fact that they moved to NC and married. It's fascinating to think how they surged in the south at that time. Enjoyable read
Apr 16, 2016 Noel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chang and Eng is a piece of historical fiction about Chang and Eng Bunker, perhaps the most famous set of conjoined twins, and the twins from whom we get the term 1CSiamese twins. 1D Just do a quick Wikipedia search if you want to know more about them. The novel starts with their death, then skips back to when they first arrived in Wilkesboro, North Carolina (their home for most of their lives), and then alternately tells of their journey to fame and their marriages and family life. This is done ...more
Aug 08, 2014 Corielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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.

Oct 11, 2009 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  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
Lora Shouse
Nov 05, 2016 Lora Shouse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a historical novel about Chang and Eng, the original Siamese twins. The outline of their lives is known from historical records, but the author had to fill in many details to give a close portrait of the twins. As the author says in his final note, there is no definitive record of their life. I presume that is why almost all you ever hear about them in historical references is that they lived and were the source of the term Siamese twins.

The author gives them a poignant story in whi
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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
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“I have come to love you in spite of---" Do I want to be loved in spite of?...Does anyone?” 5 likes
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