Cover image for Alva & Irva : the twins who saved a city
Alva & Irva : the twins who saved a city
Carey, Edward, 1970-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Orlando, Fla. : Harcourt, [2003]

Physical Description:
207 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm
Electronic Access:
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Alva and Irva Dapps are identical twin sisters who live in the city of Entralla. Like the Emerald City, Gondal, and Brobdingnag, only one guidebook to the place exists, and this novel is it. Alva is an explorer who longs to travel the world. Irva is a recluse for whom stepping outside the house is an ordeal. Yet the twins feel each other's emotions, think each other's thoughts, love and hate and suffer as one--they cannot survive without one another. And thereby hangs an inventive tale of creativity, obsession, and genius bred by necessity. Together, the twins build a model of the city on a scale that might accommodate the desires of both sisters and comes to serve Entralla in a way its creators never could have imagined.

Author Notes

Only thirty years old, Edward Carey has already achieved success as a playwright & as an illustrator.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Besides realism, there is an older tradition of the novel, in which people, events, places--or two or all of those elements--are quite awry. Carey's amazing, amusing, and affecting second novel belongs to that tradition. Formally, it is an autobiography framed, and occasionally interrupted by, commentary for tourists on the attractions of Entralla, a middle European city that rebuilt after a major earthquake in the early twenty-first century, thanks to the plasticine scale model of the place constructed by the twins Alva and Irva Dapps (which Carey himself built, and details of which constitute the book's illustrations). The story, told by Alva, begins Tristram Shandystyle, with events (principally after-hours dalliance on the steps of the general post office) before the twins' birth as, it develops, outward-and inward-oriented halves of what should have been a single, six-foot-two blonde. The commentary is by Alva's erstwhile adolescent boyfriend, who returned to Entralla after 20 years in Canada only to find that the sisters had died and to determine to preserve their model Entralla for the ages. Alva & Irva is mock epical in its consequential-ridiculous tone (the description of the earthquake, however, is eerily convincing) and comedically symphonic in the precision and daffy chasteness of its diction. For all its ludicrousness, it is honorably pathetic, too--a genuine human comedy. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the spirit of his well-received first novel, the modern gothic Observatory Mansions, Carey crafts another fantastic tale, this one revolving around a pair of lonely identical twins. Alva and Irva live in the imaginary (vaguely Nordic) city of Entralla. Their father dies the same day they are born, and the twins are brought up by their reclusive mother. Inseparable from the beginning, they are also polar opposites: Alva, the novel's narrator, longs to see the world, and Irva, her silent twin, is content to stay home forever. When they are still very young, a gift of plasticine inspires them to build a model of their street; soon they are building an imaginary city, Alvairvalla. But then they grow older, and Alva craves independence, finally taking a job at the Entralla post office. Shut up in her room, Irva withdraws further, and Alva torments her by having herself tattooed all over with a map of the world. But in the end the tattoo haunts her and catapults her back into her sister's greedy embrace. Together, the two embark on their greatest plasticine project yet-a model of the whole city-little suspecting how useful it will become after disaster strikes Entralla. Structured around whimsical guidebook entries describing the landmarks of Entralla, and illustrated with photographs of buildings molded out of plasticine (Carey created his own two-by-three-foot model of the city), the novel casts a powerful if sometimes stifling spell. Carey is an enormously talented writer, but here the cleverness of his conceit tends to overshadow his characters, precipitating a slide into archness. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



PART ONEDallia LinasA Love Storyin OurCentral Post OfficeThe Central Post OfficeThe Central Post Office of Entralla can be found at 8-10 Napoleon Street, hours Monday to Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 10am-12pm, closed Sundays. It is a large cube of a building, two storeys high, notable only for its fake marble cladding and its four Corinthian columns in the entrance portico-added at a much later date than the building's original construction, and certainly without the architect's permission. Together these features lend the vague impression of a classical temple, and perhaps it might initially be considered our city's minor version of the Acropolis of Athens were it not for the fact that the building is so caked in filth (soot, bird excrement, vehicle exhaust, industrial grime) that its neglect gives it away for what it is: an ordinary public-service building. Abused, ugly, useful. THE OLDER BUILDINGS on Napoleon Street are like parents to the newer ones. Parents are the beginning, without our parents where would we be? We may not like to think of them in the carnal act, but surely they were at it. Otherwise we should not have happened. Their energy, their youthful exchanges, created us. Before my sister Irva and I there were Dallia and Linas.We like to think our parents are as vital as buildings to the existence of Entralla. Everybody should be permanently reminded of them. There should be a big sign, just so everyone can know, 'On this step Dallia and Linas made love.' For their energies one night on the top step of Central Post Office was the essential first act in our lives. It was not merely the quiet grunting of two employees of the post office-for so Mother and Father were-but the call of something far grander and more significant. How can I explain the magnitude of their physical act? I'm not sure. But now, after a few moments thought, perhaps I have it. Down Napoleon Street is Cathedral Square, and in the square, as well as the cathedral, are two other buildings: the bell tower and the baptistry. The bell tower, and there's nothing exceptional in this, is tall and thin. The baptistry, and this is unexceptional news too, is short and fat. I think of Father and Mother. I think of the bell tower and the baptistry.The bell tower looks down and loves the squat baptistry, the baptistry looks up and loves the beanpole bell tower. Now let me cast these buildings in the forthcoming event. Let me label the bell tower Linas-father, for if he was a building rather than a person he would indeed have been a tall, gangly type of structure. And let me label the baptistry Dallia-mother, for were she to be built out of limestone, she too would be only one storey in height, and she too would spread herself out in a horizontal fashion. So now, lower the light of day into a more romantic atmosphere, turn on the moon, and see the beginnings of us, of Alva and of Irva. Hear a faint rumbling as the bell tower pulls himself from his foundations in Cath Excerpted from Alva and Irva: The Twins Who Saved a City by Edward Carey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

IntroductionAugust Hirkus
A New Statue for Our City
Part 1 Dallia and Linas A Love Story in Our Central Post Office A Newly Married Couple Once Played Husband and Wife on Napoleon Street
Interlude 1: Coffee, Market Square
Part 2 Alva and Irva An Over-Protective Mother Once Lived on Veber Street A Set of Female Twins Once Attended the School on Littsen Street A Love Story Written on the Ceiling of the Central Train Station
Interlude 2: Lunch, The International World Hotel
Part 3 The World and Our City A Postwoman from Our City Once Travelled the World Without Ever Leaving Our City The City in a House The World Loses Its Head
Interlude 3: Supper: Tectonic House, Television Tower,the Grand Lubatkin
Part 4 Entralla and Entralla Two Sisters of Pult Street Were Once Given the Keys to Our City A New Statue for Our City