Monday, February 22, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger

Summary: Audrey Niffenegger's spectacularly compelling second novel opens with a letter that alters the fate of every character. Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest in college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the subeditor of Chicago. From a London solicitor, the enclosed letter informs Valentina and Julia that their English aunt Elspeth Noblin, whom they never knew, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions to this inheritance: that they live in it for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the estranged Elspeth and Eddie, their mother.

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast and ornate Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Stella Gibbons, and Karl Marx are buries. Julia and Valentina come to know the living residents of their building. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder; Marijke, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. s the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps- their aunt.

Author of one of the most beloved first novels in recent years, Niffenegger returns with an unnerving, unforgettable and enchanting ghost story, a novel about love and identity, secrets and sisterhood and the tenacity of live - even after death.
Summary from book, cover photo from of

My Review: This novel begins as a haunting ghost story with well developed, likable characters. The setting is easy to become immersed in as it is so beautifully described. Full of mysterious secrets the first half of the novel had me hooked. It was a little far fetched, possibly even more so than Niffenegger's first novel, yet I was so caught up in the plot that it didn't even matter.

Then the story took an unexpected turn. Actually it was a complete detour and a bad one at that. Niffenegger neglected to set up enough conflict in the beginning of the story for the plot to handle this turn of events. I saw exactly how the story was going to play out yet couldn't turn away from it because I had grown attached to the characters. I kept hoping that this was just a minor brain fart on the author's part and she would come around. No such luck.

Even though I found this novel to be a disappointment I haven't given up on Niffenegger, as she is a very talented writer. If she would have just put an additional 50 pages or so into this book leading up to the climax the story would have worked. It's a downright shame. I would definitely recommend picking up The Time Travelers Wife but skip this one and wait for her next.

*For those sensitive readers- this one did have some of the language and intimacy issues that Time Traveler's Wife had, though I felt that for the most part they were appropriate for the setting of the story.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars, how unfortunate as bulk of this book was 4 stars!

To Sum it up: Audrey Niffengger please check your desk drawers, I believe you left a few chapters behind!


DL White said...

I actually enjoyed this book, but I refused to read The Time Traveler's Wife. It seems like people that read that book really didn't care for this one.

I did get really, really, REALLY confused, though. The plot twists were a bit much for me and I was actually surprised at the turn of events. Overall, I enjoyed it, though I'll probably read it again, because HUH?

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Haven't read either one -- but was surprised to see this one already on the discounted pile at B&N -- not a very good sign for such an anticipated book.


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