This is another novel by Audrey Niffenegger, the same author who brought you "The Time Traveller's Wife". If you're expecting a novel as good as, or better than "Time Traveller", then you might want to look elsewhere. First the good: it's a pleasant, non-formulaic story about sisterhood and a ghost and romance. There are a few twists and turns that you won't see coming. It's a nice change of pace to read a novel about a ghost who isn't particularly scary and hear her point of view. Now the bad: the plot moves achingly slowly. This novel is 400 pages and most of the action takes place in the last hundred pages or so. It was a challenge to stick with this book and not put it down. Also, the ending left me scratching my head and wondering "huh?" Finally, the characterizations seem a bit flat and two-dimensional. The reader is not particularly drawn to care for any character. The author seems to spend so much time creating a setting and backstory that she plum forgot to develop the characters adequately. Overall, I would recommend the book, if only for the interesting ghost story, but be prepared to commit to reading 400 pages.
Started off well but story line quickly became very weak. Character development poor. Characters were all completely self-centred and quite one dimensional. Could not recommend to anyone. Disappointing.
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 am always caught up quickly by Niffenegger's thoughtful prose and interesting characters. I was drawn in and captured by the promise of a truly excellent story, completely willing to believe whatever she asked of me for the sake of the adventure. A set of twins who are long estranged for unknown reasons, one living in England, Elspeth, and one in Chicago, Edy. Only Edy has children, and they are also identical twin girls, Julia and Valentina. Elspeth dies and leaves her flat in London to the twins she has never met with the stipulation that they must live there for a year, and their parents never set foot inside. The girls, incredibly young emotionally for their age (21), close only to eachother, not knowing what else to do with their lives, decide to take on the adventure. The plot involves a cemetery, which borders their new home and employs Robert, the deceased aunt's lover, who also lives in the flat below theirs. The most interesting and likable characters in the book are Martin and Marijke who live above the girl's flat. Martin has OCD that totally controls his life and drives Marijke to leave him suddenly after a long marriage to save her own sanity. I thought I had an idea of where this was all coming together, though the process and most especially the reasoning behind it, tarnished many of the characters I had come to really like. At the heart of most of their desire is selfish gratification, at any, I repeat, ANY cost! Of course these are ghosts we are dealing with here, so maybe the same moral expectations don't apply? Regardless, as the biggest part of the plan is executed, we are asked to stretch past anything that could be remotely believable. It was there I had to ask myself... Really???? Some of the characters were likable enough until then. But I, even MY gullible self, can't keep liking someone who is just plain BAD, ghost or human! I love her writing, her creativity, her imagination, the believability of many of her characters. I love the descriptions of London, the cemetery, the weather, the emotions, the history.
Ultimately, for me, I think this was a story about people getting what they asked for and realizing too late that the price was too high, then having to live (or relive) with the consequences. One very redeeming feature was Martin's ultimate truimph! A whole wonderful book could have been written about Martin himself!
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.