The book was published on 1 October [2] and is set in London 's Highgate Cemetery where, during research for the book, Niffenegger acted as a tour guide. Considering the setting of the novel, some critics have also pointed out a potential verbal pun in the novel's title, since in received pronunciation "symmetry" and "cemetery" are almost homophonous. Elspeth dies of leukemia. Her apartment, located beside Highgate cemetery in London, is left for the daughters of Edwina, her estranged twin sister.

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Dear Ms. Niffenegger ,. Here was a book that was smart, funny, romantic and tragic. It was one of my favorite reads of it would probably rate fairly high on my all-time favorite novels list, actually.

I have waited five years for another novel from you. At least not completely. The pleasures of Her Fearful Symmetry are subtler, I think. I found myself going through a range of emotions while reading it, and for a while after, as well. The book opens with Elspeth Noblin dying in a London hospital of cancer. Her younger lover, Robert, is completely undone by her death and finds himself repeatedly visiting the mausoleum that houses her body in Highgate Cemetery, which abuts the apartment house, called Vautravers, where both Elspeth and Robert lived in separate apartments.

Julia and Valentina are mirror twins, nearly identical and fiercely close. They are drifting through life and living at home, having dropped out of several colleges, each time at the insistence of the dominant Julia. When they find that the aunt they never knew has bequeathed them her estate, on the condition that they inhabit her London flat for one year before being allowed to sell it and that Jack and Edie are not to step foot into it , they see the opportunity for escape. Julia and Valentina arrive in London and settle into the flat.

They are unaware, at first, that Elspeth has never left it — her ghost has lingered in the apartment after her death, slowly gaining self-awareness and strength. What Elspeth wants, and how she goes about getting it, is a mystery that unfolds throughout the book. He avoids them by not answering the door when they knock, but still finds himself surreptitiously following them as they explore London.

When they finally do meet, Robert forms a connection with Valentina, one which Julia feels threatened by. The third flat in the apartment building is occupied by Martin, a middle-aged man whose intense OCD renders him unable to step over the threshold and go outside.

But Marijke abruptly leaves Martin after the service, moving back to her native Amsterdam. Julia gravitates to Martin a semi- but not entirely platonic connection as Valentina begins spending more time with Robert. Robert, too, is mostly blameless — guilty of being a bit weak, but he pays for his sins dearly. The three main female characters — Elspeth, Julia and Valentina — are each monstrously selfish in their turn. Yet each of them retains a humanity that makes it hard to condemn their actions entirely.

One of the…. To digress a little, I feel a personal connection to the theme of twin sisters and co-dependence. Highgate Cemetery is itself a character in the novel — sprawling, messy, Victorian, final resting place for luminaries such as Karl Marx, George Eliot and Christina Rossetti.

Robert is a volunteer for the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, giving tours while working on his thesis on the history of the cemetery. The characters in Her Fearful Symmetry all have issues with moving on and with separation.

I will say that I had some problems with it, and sort of had to process it for a couple of days before being comfortable with it. While that ending was tragic, it also felt inevitable and right for the story.

My first impression of the ending of Her Fearful Symmetry was that it was not right-it seemed bizarre and downbeat. In retrospect, though, almost all the characters except, ironically, the ones that you would have expected end up somehow better off as result of the events that occur.

These events are both melodramatic and somewhat macabre, but they end up making sense in the context of the story. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel.

Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction. I come here with dissent, haha. I was one of those rare? I absolutely loathed this book, haha.

Although your review nicely presented what it was about the book that you loved. So, although I have a dissenting opinion, great review, Jennie. Sasha, I just read your review — tell us what you really think! I can take a lot of absurdity and melodrama in fact, I have a not-so-secret fondness for melodrama when I like the prose and characters. Which I did in HFS, obviously. Thanks for your openness, : And yeah, free book. However, Her Fearful Symmetry just left me feeling….

I enjoyed reading about Martin, enjoyed parts of the story relating to Highgate though I thought some of that could have been better edited—i. It absorbed me to a certain point, and there was never a chance it would be a DNF book…but it was just unsatisfying.

I have to agree with Sasha; I really disliked this book. Not as intensely as she did—although, Sasha, your characterization of Elspeth as sniggering doodoo was spot-on, IMO—but pretty intensely just the same.

I did think the writing was good, bordering on very good, which is why it was so disappointing and I have never read TTW. I kept waiting for the obviously skilled writer to do something, say something, make some point or make me feel something for these irritating, spineless characters. The only one with any strength at all was Elspeth, and she was just awful. Yes, Martin had strength, but that was different.

I also managed to guess the Big Twist way in advance, and yet was still totally confused when we got to all the details of it. Was that complex lunacy really necessary, really? And what the hell was the point of the whole twist anyway? Who cares? What the heck is the matter with you people the story people, not you reading? I just hated the ending. Really a lot. When a book makes a tremendous impression on me, like TTTW did, it is hard to keep my expectations of other books by the same author reasonable.

Peggy, I think I got it from Amazon for the same deal — it was weirdly, incredibly cheap. And Amazon sent two books for some reason, so I sold one. I think I made a profit on the whole thing. Maybe that made me more charitable! Anion, I do think Elspeth, on balance, was pretty unforgivable in her actions. I think maybe the fact that she was a ghost for the majority of the story made me view her actions differently?

Otherwise, a lot of their actions are just too distasteful. I loved the writing but felt like she wasted her talent on characters that were not interesting except Martin. I love contemp Gothic, but this story fell very short.

Jennie, this is a great review! I found it much more similar in feel to her 2 illustrated books. Kind of reminded me of something like Angela Carter maybe. Sorry for the duplicate posts! The first one disappeared, so I re-did. Now I see that both showed up. Jennie : Exactly, Jennie. Oh, and I read The Three Incestuous Sisters , and found it similarly dreadful, and even more pointless. No actual incest. Instead it was a terrible story—similar in some ways to HFS—about jealousy, one monstrous woman, and a dead baby, which frankly horrified me.

I loved this book. For me, a good book is one that I continue to think about after I finish reading it. I still think about this story which I read months and months ago. She really creeped me out! Julia especially with her delusionary stubborn selfishness and Valentina with her wimpiness. Elspeth was opportunistic.

Oh, relationships bind us and obligate us? Oh, we need to cut those ties sometimes to find our inner strength? Sometimes love can smother us? Oh, wow. But it did sound that way. And in some ways I understand what you are trying to say as well. As well as the other authors I mentioned, except for Angela Carter, I did not particularily care for either of those books.

Those are just a few names that spring to mind. I liked your comments, and have at other times.


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger: review

It made the bestseller charts when it was published in the United States in It was a smart book: a high-end romance rejuvenated by a clever time-travel device, a winning combination of fantasy and ordinary human drama. Though she has never met her nieces or so we are at first led to believe , she decides to leave her flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery to them on two conditions: that they move to England and live in it for a year before they think of selling, and that their parents never set foot inside it. What is striking about this novel is the peculiar magic it works, so that you get caught up in its often improbable plot. These twins are not just identical but mirror-image, so that every cell in their bodies is reversed. But somehow all of these problems feel irrelevant as you are reading. If you come to the book looking to be freaked out, you will be disappointed, for this is a strangely unspooky ghost story.


REVIEW: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

L ike Henry David Thoreau, Audrey Niffenegger seems to view time as but the stream in which her characters go a'fishing. Her enormously popular first novel, The Time Traveler's Wife , was the story of a man who involuntarily time-travels through his own life. Widely hailed as wonderfully original, this device essentially reworked Kurt Vonnegut's conceit in Slaughterhouse-Five of becoming "unstuck in time". In her long-awaited second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry , Niffenegger angles in time's stream once again, fishing for meaning.


Twin Powers

Dear Ms. Niffenegger ,. Here was a book that was smart, funny, romantic and tragic. It was one of my favorite reads of it would probably rate fairly high on my all-time favorite novels list, actually. I have waited five years for another novel from you. At least not completely.


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

That her new novel is also concerned with the theme of yearning impossibility is evident from the opening scene which shows a couple about to be separated. Elspeth Noblin, cancer-ridden in a hospital bed, dies as her younger lover Robert steps out momentarily. Robert has been in thrall to the glamorous, impetuous Elspeth for years; his grief is about to be complicated by her disturbing past and future legacy. Elspeth has bequeathed a sizeable sum of money and a huge mansion block apartment opposite Highgate Cemetery to twin nieces she has never met, year-old Americans Julia and Valentina Poole. The will stipulates they must live in their new home for a year before disposing of it.

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