Review: Louis & Louise by Julie Cohen

On 8 September 1978, a baby is born in a small town in Maine called Casablanca. The novel’s unique factor is that it charts the life of this child in two strands. Part of the narrative assumes that the baby was male and the other half, female. Beyond this, Louis and Louise delves into themes including class division, family ties and health.

At birth, Louis and Louise are initially ultimately the same. They have the same parents and almost the same set of circumstances. However, their key difference is what takes them down such different paths. Cohen’s novel is predominantly set in Casablanca and explores the impact of growing up either male or female in the United States. 

It is in 2010, that both Louis and Louise find out that their mother is dying from cancer. This propels them both back to Casablanca. At this stage, Louise is a teacher and Louis is an author on his first book tour. 

The protagonists and characters in both strands are the same but their outcomes are different. As the story unfold, secrets are uncovered which have shaped both of their lives. It isn’t perfect, there are sections that are sometimes predictable and others which feel unnecessary.

Overall, however, Cohen has written a unique novel which will linger in your head long after you have turned the final page. It is powerful, thoughtful and truly original.

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