Heaven and hell

19th September 1997 at 01:00
ANGELA AND DIABOLA. By Lynne Reid Banks. Collins Pounds 9.99

Are "bad" children born or made? Anne Fine's last novel for older readers, The Tulip Touch, asked the same question in the wake of James Bulger's murder by two 10-year-olds. The lost youngsters and inept adults of Fine's book can be picked out in Angela and Diabola, a tale of a pair of twins born with polar-opposite personalities, but Lynne Reid Banks has stripped the storyline of realism and shed subtlety along the way.

She deals in types: besides the twins, there's their nice-but-dim parents the Cuthbertson-Joneses, the kind teacher Ms Applebough, the nasty social worker Mrs Bashforth and the drippy vicar Benedict. In a story which warns against casting children as angels or devils, gentler handling of the supporting cliches is in order.

Although the language and the pace are right for upper-primary readers, the hollow humour of chapters about the perils of rearing toddlers from heaven and hell is more likely to tickle parents. The accelerating may-hem as Mr Cuthbertson-Jones deserts the sinking ship of family dynamics, the house burns down and twins and mother are exiled to a sink estate is mildly enter-taining but falls short of the comparison with Roald Dahl made by the publisher.

More mature readers will spot where the desperate parents are going wrong and will appreciate the finer points of the mutually manipulative relationship between the "good" and "bad" twins. While the book's handling of these rings true, the resolution - and much that goes before - does not.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today