The story of two competitive and talented twins as recounted by the "ugly sister" on her deathbed.Realizing that her twin sister Helen has been born with a double share of beauty, calcium, talent, and maternal love, the young Cassandra reinvents herself on her own terms as the vulgar, uninhibited Big Bad Baby. When Helen survives their catastrophic childhood to become a successful actress, Cassandra sets out on a rampaging odyssey through New York, London, and Paris, secretly following her sister's sexual trail in order to prove her own attractiveness and worth."
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An improper English tale of twin rivalry with a twist serves as Green's saucy debut. Big, bad, ugly photographer Cassandra, who also happens to read people's minds, is desperately trying to finish her memoir before cancer finishes her. Between morphine doses, she recounts sisterhood with famous actress and icy beauty Helen. Mother loves only Helen, and Dadda, Cassandra's hero and protector, dies young; the inevitable stepfather sexually abuses Helen while beating up their mother. Then one night he kills Mother and is killed in turn by Cassandra. Ariadne, a legendary Greek actress with a fabulous hideaway on the island of Ithaca who was once Dadda's lover, offers friendship and guidance. Helen's incandescent career begins, and Cassandra consoles herself by bedding one and all of the snow queen's spurned suitors, until the tables are turned: Helen takes away Cassandra's longtime lover and photography mentor, whereupon the twins go their separate ways. Cassandra, however, gains fame herself with her Diane Arbus style and sensibility, and ultimately the sisters are reunited by Ariadne on Ithaca as co-founders of a synergistic summer arts school cleverly called Sirens. All's well for a while, until Helen shows up with a renowned war photographer Cassandra covets-especially now that he's married her sister. There are lingering questions of identity throughout, but the probing coexists with flashier, fleshier passages, and not all the tricks here are well turned. (Kirkus Reviews)