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Alva And Irva

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  247 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
A fairy tale for our times about the worlds we inhabit and the worlds we contain, from the astonishing new voice who introduced us to the strange and marvellous world of Observatory Mansions.

Alva and Irva Dapps are identical twin sisters. They live in the city of Entralla, not a place you are likely to have visited. Alva is by nature an explorer; she longs to travel the wo
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Vintage Canada (first published 2003)
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Guy Portman
Apr 25, 2015 Guy Portman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Alva and Irva are inseparable, identical twins with different personalities. Irva is introverted, Alva more outgoing. The twins, who come from a family of post office employees, reside in Entralla, a historic and picturesque though largely ignored city, which only has one guidebook.

Our narrator Alva outlines her and her twin’s childhood, including their time at school and life at home with their somewhat neurotic mother. We learn of their various escapades, details of their bizarre relationship,
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jul 14, 2010 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: karen, greg, anyone who liked "We Have Always Lived In A Castle"
I was going to try to do a bang-up job on this review, because Edward Carey is a completely unique and, I think, brilliant author and more people should read him. I even got myself signed up as a gr librarian just so I could enter his author profile and then 'fan' him. But there's not very much to be found on him out there, and although his agent's website claims he's written a third novel (called Little), I'm not sure it's ever been published. It would seem this guy is out of print. So even if ...more
Apr 29, 2011 Melee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned about Edward Carey from his wife's memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination. My curiosity was piqued and I went to look him up after I finished it.
I was interested in reading his book Observatory Mansions but all our library system had was Alva & Irva: The Twins Who Saved a City. I decided to give it a go, even though it looked kind of science-fictionesque. It wasn't though, really. Even though Entralla was a fictional place, it felt real. As if someday, wandering th
Jan 23, 2010 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having just finished (and loved!) his wife’s memoir (Elizabeth McCracken’s stunning “An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination”) I combed used bookstores until I found a copy Edward Carey’s (rather difficult to find) “Alva & Irva.” Carey’s first novel, “Observatory Mansions,” captivated me when I read it almost ten years ago, so I was doubly excited to dive into this book. Luckily, “Alva & Irva” did not disappoint!

“A & I” is a quirky, funny, grotesquerie of a book that also man
Oct 24, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A hybrid travel guide (of the fictional city of Entralla) plus autobiography (of the fictional twin, Alva). As Goodreads reviewer Julia said, "major points for innovation"... but beyond that, these characters didn't move me very much.

Maybe it was the name of the city (sounds too much like "entrails") or the frequent misuse of the word "bare" (as in, "he couldn't bare to..."). Mostly, it was the lopsidedness of the narration. Everything is told from Alva's point of view; Irva is reduced to a hys
Sep 30, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark, quirky, and wonderfully Edward Carey. It's about dichotomies, relativity, the bigness and smallness of everything. Always, with Carey's characteristic wit.

I thought it was maybe a little too similar to his first novel, Observatory Mansions, but I did enjoy it.
Dale Philbrick
3.5 stars... This is a book that I read years ago but wanted to re-read after I got a new book by Edward Carey. I also read "Observatory Mansions" by Carey years ago and loved it. After that, I sought out books by Carey and came across "Alva and Irva". I love Carey's style of prose. He has a way of describing everyday things that just make me smile.
As for "Alva and Irva", it's an interesting, sometimes slow, story of being a twin and the intimate bond you have with your sister yet how you also w
Aug 16, 2009 Lundy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alva are Irva are twins leaving in the imaginary city of Entralla. While Alva dreams of travel (she has a map of the world tattooed on her body), Irva is more reclusive. When Irva stops leaving the house, she and Alva undertake recreating the entire city in plasticine. Irva promises to leave the house once they've made a model of the entire city. Interspersed between Alva's recollections, the novel is narrated by one of Alva's friends. The novel is structured like a tour guide/ memoir, which the ...more
I got to hear Edward Carey speak at Tulane when his wife Elizabeth McCracken was there as a Newcomb Scholar. His talk about how his art-making and writing relate was wonderful! He often models characters and cities that go along with his narratives. I soon discovered that his writing is superb, as well!!

I was very blessed to have him come back to the studio and take a glance at my works. I always wish I could bring him back to see what I'm working on these days now that I have gained more confid
Mar 26, 2015 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
No Observatory Mansions, but still lovely, and, expectedly, riddled with similar themes and oddities. I probably should have waited longer so as to read the style with new eyes. I also skipped most of the footnotes and intercalary/framing device stuff because it was boring (personal bias - I dislike travel books).

Edward Carey I still love you but we're going to go "on a break" for now. That does include your new children's book and your wife's stuff, too, in case it's too similar.
Nov 06, 2008 Lara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
Oh Edward Carey, how I love your books. Your prose is so beautifully wrought. Your characters are so deliciously eccentric and tragic.

I love how the offhandedly mentioned characters make their eventual reappearance as integral plot-movers. The travelogue conceit could, under a less masterful pen, seem gimmicky, but here, it is charming.
Ann Bjerregaard
Jan 11, 2016 Ann Bjerregaard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find it hard to grade this book. It's not the kind of book I would normally read, but it took me in, in a strange way. It was at once weird and magical and tragic, but also somehow a little heart warming in its quaintness - both in the sometimes comical, strangely central European English, but also in its loving descriptions of the fictional Entralla, which becomes hauntingly real.
Mar 13, 2011 Margaret rated it really liked it
Recommended to Margaret by: Allison
Quirky, quaint, and endearing. If you've ever had a sister, or really liked playing with modeling clay when you were little, or wanted to get a map of the world tattooed all over your body, you should read this book.
Aug 31, 2016 Fillia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read any book written by Edward Carey, and I was totally amused by his imagination on Alva & Irva. On this book, identical twin sisters help us to see human's curiosity as well as fears which are inseparable.
Sarah C
Feb 08, 2014 Sarah C rated it it was amazing
This was excellent. Sad and quirky - so much so that it's too fantastic to be real and yet feels so tangible. I highly recommend.
May 22, 2017 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-good-one-yes
Told in a way that seems semi experimental, yet believable and clear. The prose style is interesting and Alva as a character was great. At times though I found myself drifting as I read. Whether it was the books slow pace or all my daily life crap distracting me I'm not certain. Still at times this was a good book.
I'm really not sure what I thought about this book. Its framing was pretty interesting - and the way it reveals its major plot points well before they occur were quite beautiful. The photographs of the miniature buildings in plasticine were a wonderful addition to the narrative through out.

There were several elements in this book that should have made me absolutely love it - and I'm having a hard time articulating why I wasn't totally sold on this book. Carey's prose, through out, is elegant an
Dec 24, 2015 neb. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: underrated
Bu kitabı ya da yazarını daha önce duymamakla birlikte açıkçası Nadir kitap tan bedava kargo olayından yararlanmak için sipariş etmiştim. Bitirdikten sonra rahatlıkla diyebilirim ki random aldığım kitaplar arasında en hoşuma gidenlerden birisi oldu. Artık basımı yapılmıyor muş. Aslında üzücü bu. Kitap hakkında bir şeyler demem gerekirse; (az biraz spoiler içerir)
Pul koleksiyonu tutkunu, ince uzun çelimsiz silik bir karakter ve sonrasında tahta bir tabure olan bir baba, gönlünü hiç de tasvip edil
Nov 01, 2009 Lotus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book, very easy to read {I read it in a single day}and very enjoyable. Indeed a very strange and unusual book though that left me with a craving for placticine. And yes, I did go out and buy some !! I enjoyed that that the book was not complicated with loads of details or descriptions {although there are the bits written like a travel book which are descriptive but they tend to be rather quirky also}, this book was like a breath of fresh air of simplicity even though the characters ar ...more
Joshua Tree
Jan 27, 2015 Joshua Tree rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical-realism
It's been a few years, but I remember being quite mesmerized by this book. It's the perfect degree of magical realism...crazy stuff happens, but always as a result of the characters' actions, never as a plot gimmick. And I think everyone could see a bit of themselves in both the extremes of Alva and Irva.
Lauren Albert
Nov 04, 2016 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 24, 2011 RUSA CODES rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the 2004 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
Nov 29, 2010 Tanner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite book. A commentary on how we often let our personal connections and relationships stand in way of our dreams.
Mar 22, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruthlessly haunting. Completely worth the emotional strain of getting through it. Beautiful and tragic, real and at the same time fantastic.
Jun 22, 2015 Ruta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An imaginative reworking of the myth of Romulus and Remus. And a masterly way of playing poker with the readers in Vilnius!
Brian rated it liked it
Jan 03, 2011
Matt rated it liked it
Aug 04, 2011
Ömür rated it really liked it
Aug 13, 2012
Amy Maddess
Amy Maddess rated it it was ok
Aug 25, 2016
Bradley rated it really liked it
Aug 28, 2008
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Edward Carey is a writer and illustrator who was born in North Walsham, Norfolk, England, during an April snowstorm. Like his father and his grandfather, both officers in the Royal Navy, he attended Pangbourne Nautical College, where the closest he came to following his family calling was playing Captain Andy in the school’s production of Showboat. Afterwards he joined the National Youth Theatre a ...more
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