Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publication year: 2009
Paperback: 485 pages
When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers–with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.
The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. 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; Marjike, 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.
Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life–even after death. (Goodreads)
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Bought (paperback copy through The Book Depository)
Why did I read this book: I had thoroughly enjoyed Niffenegger’s first novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife.
This book is slow to start, and I struggled to gather enough momentum to continue reading it. In fact, I stopped and started this book 3 times, before it was able to hook me in.
I enjoy books that observe the human condition. Ones that help you see another perspective or look at the world a little differently. Niffenegger presented the conundrums and personal dilemmas of the characters in a way which allowed me to understand and empathise with them.
About a third of the way through, I began to connect with the characters and understand their relationships with each other. I was intrigued by how they acted, reacted and interacted with one other.
Roughly half way through, I was well and truly engrossed – I struggled to stop reading (sometimes falling asleep from exhaustion before actually putting the book down, I’d even wake to find myself holding the book, with my bedside lamp still on).
However, as the book progressed, I became increasingly agitated – I knew where it was headed, what was going to happen, and I didn’t like it. I kept willing the story to change direction – but there was nothing I could do…
It left me with an unpleasant aftertaste – despite Niffeneger’s attempts to neatly tie up each characters storyline, I still felt oddly displeased and a tad annoyed.
I’m not sure I enjoyed the supernatural aspects of this novel. As a person who frequently reads fantasy and science fiction novels… I found the supernatural side a little bit odd, and maybe a little rushed.
Goodreads: 3 out of 5 stars
6 – Good, recommend with reservations
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