Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
October 23, 2010 28 Comments
This is my THIRD book for the R. I. P. Challenge!
Her Fearful Symmetry (2009) is by the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, a book that I enjoyed a lot. Her Fearful Symmetry was also very enjoyable, but towards the end I found the story odd, unlikely, and immoral.
What’s it about:
Julia and Valentina Poole are 20-year old twins, living with their parents in an American town. They have tried and failed at three different colleges and are unsure what to do with their life.
Then they get a letter from a solicitor in London telling them they have inherited the apartment of their aunt Elspeth. Elspeth is the twin sister of their mother Edwina, but the girls have never heard of her. Apparently, the women fell out and Edwina moved to America and never contacted her sister again.
[Note that in reality a solicitor would never send a letter to two people, he would write two letters, one to each person.]
The girls can only inherit the apartment in London if they both live in it for a year. So, with nothing else to do, they go.
In the house where the apartment is situated, live two interesting men. Below them is Robert, who works at Highgate Cemetery and was the lover of their aunt, although he is a lot younger. Above them live Martin and Marijke. Martin has obsessive-compulsive disorder and cleans everything thoroughly, makes his wife Marijke enter a room only with her right foot first, etc. She finds it increasingly hard to live with him.
Some time after they arrive, Julia and Valentina are aware of the ghost of their aunt Elspeth, who is still present in the apartment. They talk with her (via an Ouija board) a lot. During their stay in London, the relationship between Julia and Valentina deteriorates because Valentina has had enough of being told what to do by her sister.
Valentina then plots a way to be independent of her sister.
What I thought:
I loved the first half of the book immensely. I didn’t like the twins all that much, but I loved the story of Martin, the compulsive neighbor and of Robert, who still mourns the loss of Elspeth when the girls arrive.
The apartment the girls lived in seemed very sunny and bright and pleasant and Highgate Cemetery was an interesting place to learn more about.
The second half of the book, or at least the last quarter or so, I had problems with. I still liked the way it was written, but some of the things that were happening I could not really approve of. Loose from that, I didn’t like the twists at the end too much.
Still, I’m going to give the book 4.5/5 stars, because I have enjoyed it a lot.
I got this book: in England where I bought it as a two-for-one offer. It had been on my virtual TBR anyway.
I read this in: the original language, English.
Below are some spoilers for those who have read the book and want to know / discuss what I didn’t like about it. If you want to comment on the spoilers, please put SPOILERS in your comment to make this clear, and so others can look away.
I had a small problem with removing a spirit from a body and putting it back. It was an interesting idea but also very improbable. After Elspeth did this with the cat, the girls should have been constantly worried that she would do it with them, and move in herself.
I had a big problem with the idea that someone would experiment with being dead and then hopefully being alive again later. Valentina was supposed to be a little suicidal, but in her plan she didn’t really consider the option that it might fail too much. It seemed very unlikely that someone would want to do this, but that people who loved her actually went along with it, was even more improbable. I didn’t buy this part of the story.
I had an enormous problem with the removal of Valentina’s body from the crypt and taking her back into the house. I’m not religious whatsoever but I really don’t think you should deal with dead bodies like that.
Also, it seemed unlikely that the body was still completely intact and had not deteriorated while dead, even with the ice. So, for her to be able to be pregnant and have a child after all that, and have no other bodily complaints to speak of, seemed very unlikely to me too.
What did you think (remember to use the word SPOILER if you comment on this)?