“Her Fearful Symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger
Genre: Adult Fiction, Paranormal
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
This book was not what I was expecting. Okay, maybe that’s not true. I didn’t actually know what to expect aside from it to be really good. Like so many others, I thoroughly enjoyed Niffenegger’s debut novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife. I expected to enjoy this as much as I did The Time Traveler’s Wife. While the book was enjoyable, I did not love it.
The story was an interesting take on ghost stories. Maybe not. I don’t actually read many ghost stories. It was interesting to me though. I enjoyed reading about the hows of becoming of ghost. The author blends the paranormal with reality fairly well for most of the book. [The last 100 pages or so the book takes a jump off the deep end and ruins the story.] The story was done in a more “mature” way which is refreshing. By mature, I mean people aren’t swooning over the paranormal like way too many paranormal books do. It dips its toe into paranormal romance but thankfully the book ends before things get too weird.
The relationships with the characters were…odd. Valentina and Julia a weirdly close relationship. Are twins actually that close or is that just a misconception from non-twins? The girls fall almost too perfectly into place with the neighbors. I don’t know how to describe it if you haven’t read the story. The relationships just feel off. Both men are wayyy too old for the girls.
The story was pretty engaging. I kept finding myself wandering back to my room to read. There were lots of good twists and turns to keep the reader reading. The big twist was really bizarre.
One thing that kind of annoyed me was how the author trying to be very British. It was just a little weird and off putting. I didn’t feel that it came too natural to her. The story does take place in London but the Twins are American so it would make more sense to sound more “American”. It’s not a big deal or anything though.
It’s okay. Pick it up if you’re in the mood for a paranormal-y chick lit book.