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Monday, March 22, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

The novel opens with the death of Elspeth Noblin the twin of Edwina "Edy" Noblin. Edy is married to Jack and they live in Chicago, Illinois and they have the twin daughters, Julia and Valentina. Elspeth never married and lived in London. Elspeth had a long time lover, a younger man named Robert who lives in the flat below her. Above her, lives Martin and Marika. Elspeth bequeaths her London flat and its contents to the twin daughters of Edy and Jack. It seems that Elspeth and Edwina had been extremely close growing up in a not-so-happy childhood. They had been too close, always dressing alike and taking each other's places at times as a joke. But something happened to break them up. Now Julia and Valentina are 20 yr old mirror twins and are also too close. They dress alike and do everything together. This is how Julia wants it but Valentina is starting to want to break away. She wants to go to school and have a career in clothing design, have a husband and family. But Julia can't imagine life away from Valentina and worries that Valentina could die from her severe asthma attacks. Then comes the letter from London and, when they turn 21, they move there into Elspeth's flat.

They come just as Marika has left Martin and moved to her home in Amsterdam. Martin is one of those obsessive compulsive people who is also agoraphobic and can't leave his flat. He has about driven her insane with all his rules that make sense only to him. But Martin is devastated by the loss of his beloved Marika and she mournes the loss of the real Martin.

The flats border Highgate Cemetery and Robert is working on his thesis about the history of Highgate Cemetery. He is very close to the caretakers and he helps by volunteering to take tours through the cemetery. Robert is still dealing with the death of Elspeth almost a year earlier. His great love. But then he meets Julia and Valentina and literally stalks them through London before introducing himself. He begins to fall for Valentina.

Meanwhile, Elspeth wakes up as a ghost in her flat. It took the whole year before the girls arrive, for her to gain enough ghostly strength to make others aware of her presence. Once the girls arrive, she gets stronger and stronger.

The girls are so immature in this book that it's hard to believe they are 21 yr old American girls. They act more like 12 yr olds. Elspeth, Edwina, Julia, Valentina, Robert... all are the most selfish, self involved people you could imagine. They care only about themselves and do whatever it takes to get their own way. Robert tries to warn Valentina of this but he's just as bad. The secret of what broke the older twins up, the new secret that breaks the new twins up, the love that Robert proclaims to Elspeth and then to Valentina and then to Elspeth and back to Valentina. Sheesh! This book creeped me out. Strange is a good word. I didn't really like it but it was intriquing and I did finish it. The suspense was a little too slow but it was there and she kept me intrigued until the last 1/3 of the book. Sorry, but the ending was nauseating. Niffenegger's storytelling ability is evident but I didn't like this story. Her beautiful writing style was the only thing that sustained me through this book.

As a Christian, I don't believe in ghosts. I believe in demons and I believe that satan uses demons to confuse people into believing in ghosts. Satan is the father of lies and can dress himself as an angel of light so it would not be hard for him and his demons to deceive people by appearing as ghosts to entrap them or get their focus off of Jesus Christ. (And it amazes me that people will believe in ghosts but think Jesus Christ is just a myth.) But I can suspend the reality I believe in, for an imaginative tale. But this, I didn't like.

I thought it pretty appropriate for the 2 older twins to have "witch" names. I mean Elspeth, Edwina, Noblin? Don't they make you think of witches? And Niffenegger makes Julia the one you dislike the most and yet, she turns out to be the least creepy and most normal in the end. I did really like Julia and Martin's growing relationship until she tried to get this middle aged man to sleep with her. Ick! But Martin was beautifully portrayed and I liked that he didn't get involved with Julia but kept her at arm's distance. I guess Martin was my favorite character and he had a good ending. Jack was also a favorite character. He's a minor character but he proves to be the least selfish, the most giving and sacrificial of anyone in the book.

I don't recommend this book, especially to anyone under 17 yrs old. If you want to read it, then get it at the library and save yourself some money.

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