skygiants: Honey from Ouran with his hands to his HORRIFIED CHEEKS (ZOMG!)
[personal profile] skygiants
Man. I mean. I knew about Isabelle Holland's Trelawny from the posts by Rachel and Sarah Rees Brennan, but there's knowing and then there's experiencing.

I have, now, experienced what may be the ultimate modern Gothic OF ALL TIME.

OK. So Trelawny begins with Our Heroine Kit -- former poor country girl from the Midwest, now a glam New York bohemian fashion editor -- inheriting a giant creepy old house. Previously the house belonged to her rich asshole identical twin cousins, Very Hot Douchey Nicholas and Slightly Less Douchey Giles, plus their mom, The Emotionally Abusive Worst. Kit spent a very traumatic week there once and they were mean to her and it was VERY SCARRING.

However, Very Hot Douchey Nicholas and Slightly Less Douchey Giles have both died in Vietnam (OR SO IT SEEMS), so when The Emotionally Abusive Worst Mom dies, Kit gets the house!

KIT: Oh man, they're all dead? .... omg THIS IS AMAZING HAHAHAHAHA BEST NEWS EVER. I'm going to turn their stupid fancy snob-house into a BOHEMIAN ARTIST'S COLONY and watch them all writhe in their graves! HAHAHAHAHAHA!
THE TRELAWNY LAWYER: .... I am not sure you are displaying the gravity appropriate to this occasion.
KIT: HAHAHAHAHA! Oh, man. Just to make sure: really for real, those douches are all dead?
THE TRELAWNY LAWYER: Well, Nicholas died for sure, in front of witnesses. Giles ... well, Giles made some ant-American propaganda broadcasts out of North Vietnam and we're pretty sure he's also dead and anyway he's UN-AMERICAN so it's probably better for everyone he stays that way.
KIT: FANTASTIC. This 'missing, presumed dead' thing will in no way come back to bite me.

So Kit sets up house in the village, along with her cranky Siamese cat and a cluster of artists:

Bohemian Frank, who paints brilliantly but is a terrible person!
Bohemian Tess, Frank's browbeaten 22-year-old girlfriend!
Bohemian Pogs, a clumsy, aristocratic, and perpetually apologetic potter-slash-children's-book-illustrator; the best character in the book!
Bohemian Rod, who is only there because he used to be married to Pogs and thinks following her to an artists' colony is the best way back to her heart!

KIT: Well, I hate Frank, judge Tess, am irritated by Pogs, and bored by Rod. This is going to go great!

Also visiting frequently are Bill the local doctor and Pete the local handyman.

PETE: I have to come by every day to visit the attic, by the way.
KIT: ....why....?
PETE: Um, because of the RABID RATS that live there!
KIT: ...do you think you might have mentioned the rabid rats BEFORE I moved five people plus one overbred cat into the house?
PETE: I mean. It's probably fine. Rabies isn't that big a deal.
KIT: I DO NOT THINK THAT IS TRUE.

The next several chapters concern themselves with setting up subplots about Rod's attempt to win back Pogs, Pete's crush on Tess, and general heightened tensions among all the wacky Bohemian artists. Nobody should get too attached to these subplots because all of them will go COMPLETELY by the wayside when Kit finally goes back up to the attics to find ... an hot douchey identical Trelawny twin who was supposed to have died in Vietnam!

KIT: ....and you are...
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: I'm your cousin Nicholas! I've been hiding in the attic for weeks! Man, that Frank is a dick, right?
KIT: Wait, wait. Hang on. Nicholas definitely died in Vietnam. There were witnesses!
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: No, Giles definitely died in Vietnam before witnesses, it's just there was some confusion because of us being identical.
KIT: I never thought you were actually all that identical. Nicholas was definitely hotter.
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: ... yes, anyway, it is I, Nicholas! The rightful owner of this house!
KIT: Excuse you, if you're all 'I own this house,' then why are you hiding in the attic while I live here with a horde of Bohemians?
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: Oh, the police want me for making anti-American propaganda broadcasts from North Vietnam.
KIT: ... wait, I thought that was Giles.
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: Right, but the police think I'm Giles, because Nicholas definitely died in Vietnam in front of witnesses.
KIT: But you just said --
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: Twin swap! Twin swap. Also, as a sidenote, Giles killed his fiancee, so they want me for that too.
KIT: But Giles was always the slightly less douchey one. :( Oh, well. How about I call the police on you and keep the house, then?
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: Great! How about I HANG MYSELF FROM THE ANCESTRAL SUICIDE RAFTER?
KIT: ...
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: I see one boy in blue and it's suicide rafter time. And guess who will have to clean up after me? Yes, cousin Kit, it is you. You're welcome.
KIT: This is the worst game of chicken ever.
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: PS Handyman Pete is going on vacation so you're gonna have to feed me tomorrow if you don't want me starving to death in your attic. PPS, your cat likes me better than you.
KIT: I hate you so much.

Over the next few days, Kit ponders the important questions of how Call-Me-Nicholas pees and gets coffee, and whether or not he's too Gothic to eat cornflakes. It's OK though! Gothic potentially evil villains who live in modern attics get hot-water kettles and upstairs bathrooms, and it turns out that Call-Me-Nicholas is perfectly happy with cornflakes. It also turns out he's got malaria or something, which annoys Kit because he keeps fainting while she's trying to yell at him about her emotionally scarring childhood.

CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: I mean I did spend years being tortured in Vietnam. I'm just saying.
KIT: Honestly I would rather have spent years being tortured in Vietnam than a week with you and your super-douchey family.
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: Come on, if we hadn't been dicks to you, you might never had gotten the gumption to go to college and become a glam Bohemian fashion editor!
KIT: Have I mentioned how much I hate you yet today?
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: Will you hate me more or less if I give you a punishing kiss?
KIT: DEFINITELY MORE.

Also, the Bohemians have not become totally plot irrelevant yet, because due to a series of personality conflicts, Tess throws weed-killer in Kit's dinner, generating a vat of Chekhov's poisoned soup.

DOCTOR BILL: Kit, you seem stressed, want to go out for a movie or something?
KIT: I am stressed.
DOCTOR BILL: How about we talk about your hot douchey cousins and how they emotionally traumatized both of us as children?
KIT: ... um.
DOCTOR BILL: How about how they had a threesome with a girl in the village and one of them has a fourteen-year-old illegitimate daughter?
KIT: ...I suddenly remembered an emergency ... thing ... I have to do at home oh no look at the time later bye! PS Pogs will you cover for me if Dr. Bill asks about the emergency?
BOHEMIAN POGS: Anytime. Sisters before misters.
KIT: ... I probably should spend more time with Pogs, who turns out to be awesome, but I am BUSY having a TERRIBLE PREMONITION about Chekhov's poisoned soup!

CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: Well, Kit, you totally poisoned me with Chekhov's poisoned soup. The ancestral house is yours!
KIT: SHIT no I TOTALLY DIDN'T, here, drink some salt and throw up in the bathroom with modern plumbing we've established you have up here!
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: ...OK! This is a twist, but thanks!
KIT: Also ... wait, with this suddenly less douchey attitude, I recognize you! You're definitely not Nicholas! I've just remembered that identical twins Nicholas and Giles had different color eyes AND totally different facial shapes, and you are definitely Giles!
CALL-ME-GILES: Ha, OK, you got me.
KIT: So ... you're the one who made anti-American broadcasts from Vietnam and killed your fiancee.
CALL-ME-GILES: Oh, no. That was Nicholas. But everyone thought it was me because ---
KIT: Let me guess, twin swap?
CALL-ME-GILES: In the middle of Vietnam! Even though we were in totally different army units. Just one of those wacky series of events.
KIT: ... so why did you tell me that you were Nicholas?
CALL-ME-GILES: To be honest, I always got the impression that you thought Nicholas was hotter.
KIT: Douchier but hotter, yes, this is true.

At this point Giles gets the opportunity to go on a long backstory explanation about an enormously complex North Vietnamese plot to kidnap Nicholas, addict him to drugs, and get him to do propaganda broadcasts from Vietnam, apparently because Nicholas was just so hot that they believed this would be a major coup in the war effort. HOWEVER, due to the aforementioned twin swap, one branch of the North Vietnamese army accidentally captured Giles-pretending-to-be-Nicholas while the other branch for-real did kidnap Nicholas. This was very confusing for everyone, and apparently they were so embarrassed that they eventually let Giles escape!

KIT: This story makes zero sense.
CALL-ME-GILES: Yes, OK, but have I introduced you to my cute pet mice?
KIT: omg pet mice! Cousin Giles, you are totally the less douchey one *__*

However this brief moment of accord is interrupted by Dr. Bill, who wants Kit to come with him to visit the 14-year-old Trelawny daughter, who is sick and can only be cured by hanging out in a mansion!

DR. BILL: By the way, Kit, will you marry me?
KIT: ... we have been on literally .5 of a date.
DR. BILL: Well, it works for other people in Gothics ...

Kit is extra confused by this proposal when it turns out that the 14-year-old Trelawny daughter has a massive crush on Dr. Bill and Dr. Bill ALSO seems like he's kind of into that.

At this point the rest of the plot arrives, in the form of Cousin Jeremy who is housesitting for Kit.

COUSIN JEREMY: Hey! Kit! Remember me?
KIT: Jesus, what is it now?
COUSIN JEREMY: I found this dude on the side of the road and he's waving a pistol and looks super drunk and says he's your cousin? Your cousins on the Trelawny side are weird, man.
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: HEY KIT I'M TOTALLY NOT DEAD EITHER.
KIT: Wow! I had forgotten how much you look absolutely nothing like Giles! You are the least identical twins in existence, how could I ever have confused you!
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS: I am here to KILL Giles! Maybe I'll strangle you too!
KIT: Definitely the douchier one! Definitely, definitely the douchier one! I can see true madness in his eyes!
DR. BILL: It's OK, I gave him a tranquilizer! He's down!
KIT: .... this is all very stressful. I think I'm going to take a nap.

But what Kit ACTUALLY plans to do is warn Giles in the attic that Nicholas is alive and murderous! However, instead she finds Dr. Bill hanging the 14-year-old Trelawny daughter from the Suicide Rafter.

DR. BILL: Hey, Kit! Remember how we bonded over our shared emotional trauma at the hands of the Trelawnys? Let's kill them all and get married and live in this house and laugh maniacally at their expense FOREVER!
KIT: While this does sound tempting, I am not actually down with all the murder. Also: grow up!
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS-BUT-ACTUALLY-CALL-ME-GILES: Kit, I am so happy to hear you say that you no longer think a week at our house is the worst thing that could possibly happen to anyone! Also: I shot Dr. Bill, my brother's 14-year-old daughter is OK, and everything's fine now.
KIT: ...wait, what?
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS-BUT-ACTUALLY-CALL-ME-GILES: I pretended to be Nicholas so I could lure out Dr. Bill! I always suspected he was fishy!
KIT: ... but you looked totally different! YOU ARE TOTALLY NOT IDENTICAL TWINS.
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS-BUT-ACTUALLY-CALL-ME-GILES: Contact lenses! :D
KIT: But you tried to strangle me! I went on for several narrative paragraphs about how I could see true madness in your eyes!
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS-BUT-ACTUALLY-CALL-ME-GILES: ...acting! :D
KIT: ...
BOHEMIAN FRANK: In other news, I am an undercover policeman and I stole all my paintings from a very talented lunatic in an insane asylum!
KIT: ...
BOHEMIAN POGS: In other news, I totally knew all this was happening, because I'm your lawyer's niece, and also I'm psychic!
KIT: ...
BOHEMIAN TESS: In other news, I'm Frank's pet drug addict! He's trying to get me off drugs, or something, none of this is actually explained very well!
KIT: ...
BOHEMIAN ROD: In other news, I haven't actually appeared for the last hundred pages of the book and I'm pretty sure that Isabelle Holland forgot about me.
KIT: WELL THAT'S SOMETHING.
CALL-ME-NICHOLAS-BUT-ACTUALLY-CALL-ME-GILES: In other other news, Kit, I love you!
KIT: Well ... I guess that's the least implausible of this series of highly implausible revelations ... but, OK, before we settle in to makeouts, let me double-check. You are actually Less Douchey Giles ... right?
CALL-ME-GILES: Well, actually ...
KIT: Oh god.
CALL-ME-GILES: The real truth is, Nicholas and I ... were switched at birth!
KIT: I don't -- but -- who cares? YOU'RE TWINS!
CALL-ME-GILES: Ah, yes, but secretly, we're fraternal twins! That's why we don't actually look much alike, except our mom yelled at anyone who said that we didn't. Also, our parents got married in the middle of the birth, so only one of us is legitimate and in line to inherit. It's me, by the way. Definitely me.
KIT: But you have twin swapped literally dozens of times. AS NON-IDENTICAL ADULTS. IN THE ARMY.
CALL-ME-GILES: I mean, everyone in Vietnam was really stoned?
KIT: Speaking of, while I don't mean to diss this happy ending or anything, don't you still have to hide in the attic from the police?
CALL-ME-GILES: Nah, now that everyone knows we're fraternal, it's cool. We can turn this house into an orphanage for Indonesian refugee children!
KIT: Why ... an orphanage for ... I don't ....
CALL-ME-GILES: Look over there, your cat's pregnant!
KIT: HOW! THERE WAS NO OTHER CAT IN THIS BOOK! LITERALLY NONE OF THIS HAS BEEN FORESHADOWED!
CALL-ME-GILES: Wanna play with my cute pet mice though?
KIT: .... the mice are really cute.

Date: 2014-12-16 12:43 am (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Princess Bride: Let me sum up)
From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
I am DYING. This is the best review ever of the best Gothic ever.

I think my favorite part of the entire book, apart from the mice, is that by the end not only do you have no idea if the twin who appears in the book is Giles or Nicholas, the entire question of "Which is Giles and which is Nicholas" has become a sort of Heisenberg uncertainty principle. If babies are switched at birth before they're even named, which is the real Giles, the one who should have been named Giles if they hadn't been switched, or the one who was actually named Giles after the switch?

Date: 2014-12-16 02:51 am (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Unicorn emotions)
From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
I had totally forgotten that Pogs was psychic. To be fair, I think Holland also periodically forgot.

Have you read anything else by Holland?

Date: 2014-12-16 03:22 am (UTC)
rachelmanija: (It was a monkey!)
From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
Her career consisted of 75% awesomely depressing YA, and 25% completely bugfuck Gothics. Guess which I preferred.

Date: 2014-12-16 04:18 am (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
YES. That was Darcourt. I think Tower Abbey was my favorite. Grenelle was terrible and not in an entertaining way; avoid.

Date: 2014-12-16 06:06 am (UTC)
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Wasn't there one with leprosy?

Whaaaaaaaaaa?

Date: 2014-12-16 03:41 am (UTC)
elsane: an evil plot bunny. (literally.)
From: [personal profile] elsane
...........

wow.

....

I will just sit here quietly boggling that the universe is such that this book is actually a real thing that can be actually read by real people.

Date: 2014-12-16 03:51 am (UTC)
sovay: (Cho Hakkai: intelligence)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I see one boy in blue and it's suicide rafter time.

If this is not actual dialogue from Trelawny, I hope someone says it in a story you write sometime, because it's great.

As to everything else: wow.

Date: 2014-12-16 06:05 am (UTC)
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
From: [personal profile] sovay
(It would probably be almost impossible to get the rights to do an actual radio play version, which is a real shame, because how amazing would it be?)

MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

Date: 2014-12-16 08:52 am (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
This made for great breakfast reading; thank you! \o/

Date: 2014-12-16 09:50 pm (UTC)
brownbetty: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brownbetty
AMAZING.

Date: 2014-12-16 09:51 pm (UTC)
brownbetty: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brownbetty
On consideration, the best part is maybe "SURPRISE, WE'RE ACTUALLY NOT IDENTICAL!" because, WHAT? How is that even RELEVANT? Like, if you're fraternal twins who can be mistaken for each other, whether or not their genome is 100% identical is really only relevant if you're worried about genetic diseases.

Date: 2014-12-17 04:58 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jinian
But... identical twins are still different people? So that would be true anyway?

OH WELL CUTE MICES

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