Doppelgänger, a review by Joanna

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Doppelgänger

Naomi Klein

Penguin

416 pages

Published on Sept 12, 2023

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This is a fascinating exploration of Canadian author & journalist Naomi Klein’s experiences of being mistaken for American author & journalist Naomi Wolf throughout her career. This focuses on how problematic this has become for her since the latter became a full-blown Right Wing anti-vax conspiracy theorist during the Covid pandemic. Klein relates her own views while examining the role of doppelgängers in the arts and literature, and how the struggle to maintain a genuine persona in the media, and especially online, becomes almost impossible when your social media “twin” holds views almost diametrically opposed to yours.

It seems I’m not the only one who had heard of both Naomi’s as writers of a series of provocative best-selling non-fiction books, but not registered they were two different people! It’s understandable – they’re similar ages, both Jewish, both strikingly good looking, writing similar kinds of books, albeit on very different topics. I read Naomi Wolf’s debut book, The Beauty Myth last year, and found it illuminating if rather dated – it was first published in 1991. Conversely I had not read any of Klein’s books, but was aware of No Logo (published in 2002) as it has appeared on multiple Top 100 lists. I am now more keen to read it even if I find her far left politics irrational (for context, by New Zealand standards I’m definitely right of centre, but in the US I’d definitely be a Democrat.) I did know that Wolf had moved on from feminism to become a buffoonish alt-right caricature, but didn’t realise quite how bad things were.
This is a long book which took me over two weeks to finish. It isn’t quite as long as the ebook appears, however, as the last 16% is all references, acknowledgements and an index. Despite the length, I enjoyed Klein’s insights on a variety of important and topical global issues. It does come across as self-indulgent, a bit hypocritical and at times self-pitying, and unfortunately we never find out what Wolf thinks about their weird non-relationship, but unless you’re from one of the groups she criticises mercilessly, in which case you’d hate it, it’s well worth a read. 4.5 for the originality of concept, forthright thinking and opening my mind to some issues I’d never considered before. Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK for the ARC.

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