Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ghosts of Your Past

'Her Fearful Symmetry'
By Audrey Niffenegger

Format: Paperback
Published: Scribner; Sept 2010
Pages: 406

Synopsis: A haunting tale about the complications of love, identity, and sibling rivalry. The novel opens with the death of Elspeth Noblin, who bequeaths her London flat and its contents to the twin daughters of her estranged twin sister back in Chicago. These 20-year-old dilettantes, Julie and Valentina, move to London, eager to try on a new experience like one of their obsessively matched outfits. Historic Highgate Cemetery, which borders Elspeth's home, serves as an inspired setting as the twins become entwined in the lives of their neighbors: Elspeth's former lover, Robert; Martin, an agoraphobic crossword-puzzle creator; and the ethereal Elspeth herself, struggling to adjust to the afterlife. Niffenegger brings these quirky, troubled characters to marvelous life, but readers may need their own supernatural suspension of disbelief as the story winds to its twisty conclusion.

My Take: I've been wanting to read this book for awhile now if only to see how my reaction would differ from Niffenegger's first book, 'The Time Traveler's Wife'. Everyone loved this book and I felt a bit out of the loop because I thought it was just ok. I liked it but I didn't honestly see what all the fuss was about. Now comes her second book and the reviews are mixed so I thought, well she deserves one more try from me, and guess what folks, I freaking love this book! I guess whatever the public thinks of Niffenegger, I'll think the opposite!

Much like with her first novel, in order to get into the storyline you have to suspend belief a little. While I had a hard time understanding what was happening in 'The Time Traveler's Wife' this did not happen to me in 'Her Fearful Symmetry'. I got it. I knew what was happening. I could suspend belief because I could go along with the story and I liked it, it worked for me. Does that makes sense?

This book is all about twins. Identical twins. The younger set are named Valentina and Julie. They inherit their aunt Elspeth's flat in London when she passed away. Her aunt was the identical twin to their mother Edie. In order to inherit the flat and her wealth they must live in it for one year without their parents coming along. Don't worry, they are in their early twenties and kind of need a little push into adulthood anyway! I loved this premise! What I wouldn't have given at that age to live in London rent free. I wouldn't give my aunt's life by any means - but you know what I am saying. It's a charmed deal if you ask me. Julie seems to grab it by the horns and go exploring but Valentina is a little frightened.

After they settle in they get to meet their neighbors who are a little eccentric and fun for us to get to know. They also live right next to Highgate Cemetery. You better believe that after reading this book, if I ever make it back to London I'll be going on one of the guided tours of this cemetery as it sounds absolutely fascinating!

All is not what it seems in the flat that the twins are living in though because Elspeth's ghost is visiting them. This is where things get a little weird. You either go along with the story and get wrapped up in it like I did or you don't. I found that it really worked for me. Elspeth was weird and freaky and well, you know, not all ghost's are good. Stories come out about their past and I felt that the story kept the pages turning for me. I really got into and just plain loved it! It took me by surprise really. To tell more would give the plot twists away so I'll leave at that but I hope you give this one a try!

(I got this book from Crazy Book Tours)


  1. I haven't read Time Traveler's Wife OR this one so I am seriously behind the times here. I do plan on reading both.

  2. Truth be told I didn't love her first book, I mean sad yes, ok yes, but love, no

  3. To me, this one didn't have quite the same emotional impact as The Time Traveler's Wife, but it did have a cooler plot. I liked the way she portrayed being a ghost and everything!

  4. I've been avoiding this book because the reviews have been so mixed. Maybe going in with lowered expectations helps. Glad to see you loved it.

  5. I was waffling on this one, but now it's definitely on the TBR list!

  6. i've been on the fence about starting 'time traveler's wife' because i feel like it's been hyped up so much that it will fall short of my expectations for it. after reading your review though, i may just start on this book first and see how i like her writing before trying the other one.


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