For The Someday Book

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

Posted on: August 8, 2012

Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger, Scribner, 2009, 406 pp.

I adored The Time Traveler’s Wife when I read it a few years ago, and I found Audrey Niffenegger to be a brilliant, intricate storyteller. When I saw her second novel on the library shelf, I grabbed it greedily. Her Fearful Symmetry was dramatically different than The Time Traveler’s Wife, but it did not disappoint.

Her Fearful Symmetry is a dark and sophisticated ghost story, set in the neighborhood and backdrop of London’s Highgate Cemetery. Although the novel is contemporary, the setting is so Victorian that I frequently found myself startled at references to cell phones, e-mail and modern life. The novel takes place after the death of Elspeth Noblin, who has left her London flat and all her estate to her nieces, daughters of her twin sister Edie, and twins themselves. The twin nieces, Julia and Valentina, have never met their aunt, and their mother refuses to discuss the separation. They are only 21, and they are developing their adult identity and negotiating separate lives as twins. In order to claim their inheritance, they must come and live in the flat for a year. There they meet Elspeth’s neighbors, including her lover Robert, a reclusive Martin suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Highgate Cemetery and its residents. As the story unfolds, the girls get to know their aunt Elspeth as well—and not just through the eyes of others. The haunting of this tale slowly turns darker and more monstrous.

The story tells of love and death and love beyond death, of the intermingling of the souls of twins and lovers, of the possibility of healing and hope. To tell more might be to give too much away, and this novel is too good to spoil. Read it and enjoy it. I’ll have to eagerly await Niffenegger’s next offering.

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2 Responses to "Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry"

Thanks for the recommendation. I’m adding it to my GoodReads list.

Yes, it was not what I expected, and not my usual style of book, but I really enjoyed it and it stayed with me.

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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