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Chang and Eng

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,640 Ratings  ·  222 Reviews
In this stunning 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 the Civil War ...more
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published (first published 2000)
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Julie
May 26, 2010 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
Karen
Jul 19, 2013 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
...more
Jennifer
Jan 19, 2010 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
Sezín Koehler
UGH.

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
...more
Alyce
Jul 31, 2008 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....
Dorottya
Jul 12, 2013 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
...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
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
Sandy
Aug 24, 2008 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
...more
J.T. Wilson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Empress5150
Dec 13, 2009 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
...more
Wanda
Feb 11, 2010 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
...more
Elaine
Jan 18, 2012 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
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
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
Thomas Edmund
Chang and Eng is an interesting attempt to fictionalize the lives of the original 'Siamese' Twins. Following two prevailing storylines - the twins birth to stardom, and the twins marriage to death - Strauss attempts to create a real story packed with the same drama of a fiction novel.

While props must be given for the originality of the idea, I felt that beyond the interesting premise there was little to keep me hooked. The scenes of early life and emigration were important, but not tense. The ta
...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
Jul 01, 2009 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.
Steve
Nov 28, 2008 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/
Jessica
May 31, 2015 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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book!! What a great, heartwarming story.
Lois
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel written around the few known facts about the real lives of these conjoined twins. Its known that they were born, never separated, married sisters, had many children, entertained for a living among other things, and how they died. That's about all. So this book really makes you wonder about how their real lives were in comparison to what the author has imagined for us. Surely he's got some points right. They must have had a love-hate relationship. How could you not have that with ...more
Bookreaderljh
Of course these Siamese twins really did exist back in the 1800's and were "exhibited" in shows for many years - and did marry sisters and have 21 children all told - but this story is fiction as not much other than these bare facts were known about the brothers. So this novel is told from the viewpoint of Eng and seeing everything only through his eyes became repetitive and (obviously) one sided. I would have loved to hear from the other twin - Chang - at times (especially for the surprising tw ...more
Leif
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this really interesting but seeing as it is written from the point of view of one of the twins, the language seems all wrong. Way too "western"? I don't know. For all its neat little parts, the book didn't feel right.
Joe
Jun 18, 2017 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.
Martyna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elise Thanasouras
Jan 17, 2017 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
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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...
“I have come to love you in spite of---" Do I want to be loved in spite of?...Does anyone?” 5 likes
“I suppose memory has at least two faces, and capricious ones at that.” 3 likes
More quotes…