Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Scribner, 406 pages.

A set of twenty-year-old twins, children of a twin, receives a mysterious inheritance—a London flat adjacent to Highgate Cemetery in which the twin girls must live together for one year before assuming ownership. Soon after arrival, Julia and Valentina mix with their quirky, lovable neighbors—Martin, housebound neurotic and puzzle mastermind; Robert, cemetery scholar and leal lover of the deceased. Not to be outdone, the cemetery itself dons a quasi-character role. Into this atmospheric setting, floats a tentative but narcissistic ghost who orchestrates events to the novel’s end.

I loved 90% of this book. (Of course, we will discuss at length the 10% I didn’t love. You expect no less, am I right?)

I found the exploration of desire compelling. To me, this book is about obsession—one twin’s obsession for the other, one man’s obsession with compulsion, another’s obsession with love. Added to that, these flawed but gentle characters impact each other’s lives in complex and interesting ways. Niffenegger’s novel considers the human condition minus the time shifts and plot devices of the author’s more famous work, The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Yet I felt the foundation for the ending was not properly laid, and this profoundly affected my reading experience. To read my explanation, tune in to the next installment of Ghost Novel Reviews for Her Fearful Symmetry, Part Two.

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