Book Review: – Her fearful symmetry

We all agreed that Her Fearful  Symmetry was a good read. The characters are interesting and well drawn, and Audrey Niffenegger’s writing style is easy and fluent.

The story starts with the death of Elspeth, a middle aged woman who lives in a flat overlooking Highgate cemetery. We also meet the other residents of the block – Robert, ( Elspeth’s lover) and Martin and Marijke and the story is told from a variety of different viewpoints. Elspeth has decided to leave her flat to the twin daughters (Julia and Valentina) of her twin sister Edie, but on condition that they live in the apartment for a year before deciding to sell it.  She has only met the girls as infants as they were brought up in the USA.

The tale is a ghost story but for the first part of the book it is gentle and unthreatening – we had all enjoyed Elspeth learning what she could and couldn’t do, and finding ways to communicate with those around her. She can’t leave the flat and there are parallels with Martin who is also trapped in his home by his OCD. It is difficult to comment on the story without giving out plot spoilers (although there are plenty of those out on the internet!), but we all found the last third uncomfortable – there were plot holes, particularly for the more scientific of us, and questions about the motivation of various characters.

Highgate Cemetery is a major location in the book, and Niffenegger manages to convey a lot of imformation about the site without it feeling worked in – we all now want to visit what is clearly a fascinating and beautiful place. We also discussed whether we believed in ghosts (nobody really came down either way but there was a general consensus that we would be happy to know they didn’t exist!), and the relationship between twins, which is portrayed as being very intense in the book.