Her Fearful Symmetry Author:Audrey Niffenegger Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt Elspeth Noblin has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the f... more »lat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls’ aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie.
The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons, and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbors: Martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including -- perhaps -- their aunt.« less
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Since Her Fearful Symmetry is so different in tone, subject, and pace from Audrey Niffenegger's first novel The Time Traveler's Wife, it's unclear whether her fans will enjoy this new offering. A woman dying of leukemia bequeaths her estate, including a flat bordering London's Highgate Cemetery, to her estranged twin sister's daughters, Julia and Valentina. A pair of inseparable 'mirror twins' who have not met their Aunt Elspeth, they now have flush bank accounts and a posh London flat which they must live in for at least a year without their parents allowed inside. On first glance it's an escapist fantasy come true for any young person without any definite life plans, but one the girls accept with some trepidation. Once settled into the flat, they interact with their neighbors. Martin, the upstairs neighbor, is a genius crossword composer whose severe obsessive-compulsive disorder keeps him homebound, unable to chase after his wife Marijke who can no longer stand his lifestyle. Robert who lives downstairs was Elspeth's devoted younger lover, a historian writing a dissertation of Highgate cemetery. The final neighbor they meet is their Aunt Elspeth, whose ghostly spirit is unable to leave the flat. Niffenegger excels at making quirky characters spark off the page with elegant prose that deals with themes of love, identity, obsession, and loss. I enjoyed the (some may say overly) long introduction--it takes about a year after Elspeth's death for the girls to move to London and meet the other characters. I enjoyed how Londonone of my favorite citiesand the cemetery are portrayed. However, I was disappointed in how these characters whom I've grown to love ultimately behave. Their motives and actions in the last third of the book are not supported by earlier character development; it's rushed, kept from the reader, and unexpectedly profoundly sad. Those who didn't enjoy Niffenegger's treatment of time travel might not appreciate her non-religious take on ghosts either. Nonetheless, it's a book I'm glad I read. If I had wanted to throw it against the wall in the end, it is because I had gotten that invested in the writing.
I absolutely loved The Time Traveler's Wife but I had a very hard time getting into this story. It starts out very slowly, gets better for awhile but unfortunately ends with a whimper. As others have stated the storyline has a lot of potential but I felt like the writer lost interest and just leaves the reader hanging in the end.
Upon Elspeth Noblin's death from cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her American twin neices, Julia and Valentina. The girls had never actually met their English aunt, only knew of her as their mother's twin sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers - with seemingly little or no interest in going to college, finding jobs, or anything outside of their cozy suburban Chicago home, and with an abnormally intense attachment to each other. The girls move into Elspeth's flat - which borders London's Highgate Cemetery - under the understanding that they must live in the apartment for one year before they can sell it, and their parents cannot enter the apartment.
As the twins embark on this new, adventurous chapter in their lives, they come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Majike, 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, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.
I was somewhat undecided about whether or not I wanted to read this book. I generally love horror and books that have a tinge of the supernatural about them; however, I also have discovered this about myself: I just can't concentrate in order to read extremely long books. By this I mean, books of about 400 pages onwards, are somewhat daunting for me to begin. This book was unusual from the beginning: I wouldn't classify it as strictly horror - it's too gentle for that - perhaps Contemporary Paranormal Mystery, if there even is a particular genre called that? :)
I did find that the book was rather lengthy but overall I enjoyed it and give it a strong A! For those of you who've read Ms. Niffenegger's debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, and enjoyed that book, you might enjoy this as well as it was her second book written six years later. I started reading Ms. Niffenegger's work with Her Fearful Symmetry and am just curious: should I backtrack and read The Time Traveler's Wife some time? Or am I fine having read this book and enjoying it as I have?