The Separation is the story of twins during the WWII; Joe and Jack known as JL. It starts in 1936, as they both leave for Berlin to participate in theThe Separation is the story of twins during the WWII; Joe and Jack known as JL. It starts in 1936, as they both leave for Berlin to participate in the Olympic Games. On their journey back, they bring back a young Jewish woman who they are both madly in love with… until she marries Joe. Priest provides us two (or perhaps even more) stories as Joe and JL both deal with the war and its consequences separately.
JL becomes a pilot in the RAF while Joe, a pacifist joins the Red Cross. From then on, their paths go different way though they can never free themselves of this special bond that links as twins. However, History itself goes its own way as well and the reader is never quite sure which reality he is in and exactly how many realities there are. Is Joe dead or alive? Or is JL the one who’s dead? Did the war truly end on May 11th 1941 when Churchill signed a separate peace treaty with Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s dophin?
The Separation can be classified as an “uchronie” (that would be the French term, perhaps in English you just stick to alternative history) but I would even go further than that and say that it’s an “uchronie” about “uchronie” because unlike other novels of the genre, the author doesn’t change one particular event so as to end up in a completely different world. There isn’t a clear distinction between our world and the world(s) in which the characters evolve.
Priest also uses this to explore the various possibilities offered by History. He raises the question of interpretation and perception of event and how people witnessing the same event never quite have the same point of view on what truly did happen… from then on, what is the truth?
I was particularly interested by the twin’s awkward love-hate-envy relationship and how in the end even though they were separated both because of the war and because of their opposite views of the war, their actions were often defined by their relationship… but then I’ve always found twins fascinating and I suppose Priest knows what he’s talking about since he’s got two of his own.
Some will love and others will hate, my point is that I don’t think you can remain indifferent to this novel. Some will find it brilliant while others will find that it completely missed the point but then, isn’t that what the entire novel is about? Interpretation.
I was immediately caught up in the twin’s everyday life. Here, the battles are mostly inner turmoil and the author uses SF to concentrate and analyse his characters. This is a novel I would recommend to all even those who don’t usually read SF because they sometimes have the feeling that there’s more science than fiction. Here it is not the case. If you aren’t afraid of unexpected turn than go read it! Why are you still here?