Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

20:20 Cilla P 0 Comments

Title: Her Fearful Symmetry
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd
Source: Rowden White Library, Melbourne

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.

Review: DNF - ⋆⋆

“He thanked her and left the house in the mood of a shipwrecked man who has allowed the rescue ship to pass him by.”

I didn't finish this book for two reasons. One - I had to return it to the library and it wasn't possible to borrow it again, and two - I wasn't interested in continuing. After one point, I could tell it was heading for tragedy and I just didn't want to read on.

I borrowed this because the title and the plot intrigued me, and I still really like the basic idea of the story. I like ghost stories where it's less about horror and poltergeist, more focused on the emotions behind why spirit refuses to move on. The relationship between Julia and Valentina, and the mystery of what happened to Elspeth and Edie kept me reading. Niffenegger's description brought the scenes to live, and there are scenes and sentences in the book that I loved.

The problem is, I feel like there was this cloud of melancholy hanging over the story since the start, and it hardly ever let up. Given my emotions at the time of reading, it became too difficult to read. Also, I just couldn't love or root for the characters. Julia irritates me, Valentina and Robert frustrate me. The only ones I wanted to read more of were Martin and Marijke, but even then it wasn't enough to keep me going.


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