Exquisite Hauntings – “Her Fearful Symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger

In simplest terms, this is a novel about twins.

Oh, and ghosts.

In truth, it’s a delicate and beautiful book about things we’re haunted by – both living and dead.  The characters are complicated and marvelous, the setting is everything a modern Gothic romance revolving around a cemetery should be, and the plot is unique and twisted and all kinds of clever.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Yes, it all begins with twins.  Two sets of them, in fact.

Elspeth and Edie are the original set of twins.  When Elspeth dies, she leaves her apartment in London to Edie’s twin daughters, Julia and Valentina, on the condition that they can only sell it after they live in it for a year, and that Edie may never come to visit.  (Edie and Elpeth have mysteriously not spoken in years.)  Julia and Valentina are naive and inseparable, and move to London imagining it will be like they’ve seen in movies and on TV.

Arriving in London, the twins move into their lovely apartment by the famous Highgate Cemetery, wherethey  meet the other two inhabitants of the apartment building.  First, there’s Martin, who suffers from crippling OCD and who’s wife recently left him to live a life without constant hand-washing and bleach.  There’s also Robert, a historian working on an endless dissertation about the famous cemetery. Oh, and Robert was Elspeth’s lover.

Soon, it becomes apparent that there are strange things going on in the twins new home — and that there might not only be living beings residing there.

If I say more, I’ll wind up giving something away and then you’ll hate me. That, my friends, would be sad.

“Her Fearful Symmetry” is lovely – creepy – fascinating – heart-breaking.

I have to gush and admit – it’s wonderful, and would be a perfect book for the incoming fall season.  (Who doesn’t love a ghost story?)

Niffenegger is perhaps best known for her sweepingly romantic novel, “The Time-Traveller’s Wife.”  This novel stands beside that novel as quite an accomplishment.  It’ll take your breath away.

(9/16 – Ms. Niffenegger will be at Chicago Public Library, apparently speaking and then signing copies of her fist graphic novel.)


About JamieP

Books. Adventures. Chicago. Married. Mommy. Cat.

Posted on September 11, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m glad to read such a positive response to “Her Fearful Symmetry.” Most readers who liked “The Time Traveler’s Wife” were put off by the weirdness of the Highgate book. But from what I know of Audrey Niffenegger, the newer book is more typical of her sensibility–i.e. attracted to the creepy.

  2. Hi Diane! I agree. Perhaps the fact that I often prefer my books to have a creepy side led me to enjoy this book as much as I did. 🙂 I found it beautiful and lovely. To each her own, right?

    Thanks for reading!

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