“They were still essentially one creature, whole but containing contradictions.” (34)
Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry is the story of twins, Julia and Valentina, willed a London flat by their mother’s estranged, dead twin, Elspeth, and their year there interacting with the odd collection of residents in her building, bordering the famous Highgate Cemetery. It mirrors the gothic, romantic style of Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and Jane Eyre, and the bazaar supernatural landscape of Edgar Allan Poe’s Ligeia.
The characters are unforgettable. Elspeth dies in the first chapter and haunts the flat and the rest of the book as a puppeteer of the living. Her strangely immature twin nieces resemble fairer versions of The Shining’s ghost twins. Their neighbor, Martin, suffers from severe OCD that prevents him from even leaving his flat. Elspeth’s lover, Robert–a tour guide at the cemetery, who seems more at home with the dead than with the living–emerges as the protagonist.
I enjoyed reading this book, but there are some inconsistencies of voice and character motive that have me perplexed–sudden violence from docile characters, fumbling attempts at intimacy that seem out of place, rash decisions without proper explanation. I suppose the characters’ personalities are quirky enough to allow for these, but I still find myself puzzling. When I finished the book, all I could think was, “Weird,” but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it.
It is my policy to not publish reviews of books I don’t like or wouldn’t recommend, but I feel compelled to post on Her Fearful Symmetry because I’m glad I read it, and I would love to discuss it with others who have, too. Have you read this book? I’d love your thoughts on it.