Title: Her Fearful Symmetry
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Genre: Ghost Story
Rating: * * *
Publishers: Scribner (Sept 29, 09 )
Hardback: 416 pages
FTC Disclosure: Paperbackswap
Audrey Niffenegger's spectacularly compelling second novel opens with a letter that alters the fate of every character. Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest in college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. From a London solicitor, the enclosed letter informs Valentina and Julia that their English aunt Elspeth Noblin, whom they never knew, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions to this inheritance: that they live in it for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the estranged Elspeth and Edie, their mother.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast and ornate Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Stella Gibbons and Karl Marx are buried. Julia and Valentina come to know the living residents of their building. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder; Marijke, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps - their aunt.
I've got to admit, despite the rather lukewarm reviews that this book had received, (and I try not to read too many as I don't want to spoil
the storyline, just get a general feel for the book), I had to get it as it was written by the author of The Time Travelers Wife, my all time favorite of any genre I've read. But the reviewers were right. It was NOT the TTTW! (sigh)
That said, though I felt like I had to struggle at times to stay interested in this book, I was determined to solve the mystery despite feeling like I knew what was going to happen. Let's just say I was right but oh so wrong too! I won't rehash the whole synopsis of the book but in general two girls, twins, inherit a flat in London from their, until now, unknown aunt who is their mom's twin. They must live in the flat for a year before selling it and their parents are restricted from entering it ( I just had to know why Elspeth felt so strongly about this).The younger twins weird, almost incestuous, commitment to one another was a bit unsettling at first but very necessary for the telling of the story. At times I felt like the book was much longer than it was as it dragged on and on (and not in a good way). While the ending was and wasn't a surprise, the journey there was arduous. And the trip IS the most important thing. The characters were fascinating, at first, though at times seemed more like 13 year olds than 20 year olds, and the descriptive locale made me feel I was wandering the streets side by side with the twins. Had I not had such great expectations for it after TTTW, I probably would have enjoyed it more. Definitely a check out of the library or get used (like I did) read. And though I was disappointed in this book, I'll be back for another of Niffenegger's works but will pay more attention to the reviewers.