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Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States

My name is Pat and I live in Florida. My skin will never be smooth again and my hair will never see color. I enjoy collecting autographs and playing in Paint Shop Pro.,along with reading and writing. Sometimes, I enjoy myself by doing volunteer "work" helping celebrities at autograph shows. I love animals and at one time I did volunteer work for Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.

Paperback: 406 pages
Publisher: Scribner;(June 29, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1439169012


Her Fearful Symmetry, a haunting tale about the complications of love, identity, and sibling rivalry. The novel opens with the death of Elspeth Noblin, who bequeaths her London flat and its contents to the twin daughters of her estranged twin sister back in Chicago. These 20-year-old dilettantes, Julie and Valentina, move to London, eager to try on a new experience like one of their obsessively matched outfits. Historic Highgate Cemetery, which borders Elspeth's home, serves as an inspired setting as the twins become entwined in the lives of their neighbors: Elspeth's former lover, Robert; Martin, an agoraphobic crossword-puzzle creator; and the ethereal Elspeth herself, struggling to adjust to the afterlife. Niffenegger brings these quirky, troubled characters to marvelous life, but readers may need their own supernatural suspension of disbelief as the story winds to its twisty conclusion.

“Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup.  Later he would remember walking down the hospital corridor with the cup of horrible tea in his hand, alone under the fluorescent lights, retracing his steps to the room where Elspeth lay surrounded by machines.  She had tuned her head towards the door and her eyes were open; at first Robert thought she was conscious.

In the seconds before she died, Elspeth remembered a day last spring when she and Robert had walked along a muddy path by the Thames in Kew Gardens. There was a smell of rotted leaved; it had been raining. Robert said, “We should have had kids,” and Elspeth replied, “Don’t be silly, sweet.” She said it out loud in the hospital room, but Robert wasn’t there to hear.

Elspeth turned her face towards the door. She wanted to call out, Robert, but her throat was suddenly full.  She felt as though her soul were attempting to climb out by way of her esophagus. She tried to cough, to let it out, but she only gurgled.  I drowning. Drowning in a bed…She felt intense pressure, and then she was floating/ the pain was gone and she was looking down from the ceiling at her small wrecked body.”

End of page one… I was hooked.

Wow… from not being able to read her most popular book The Time Travelers Wife, to not being able to let this book sit for any great length of time!  Amazing when I try to think of it.

I will say though… it wasn’t (totally) what I first expected. (not that I know what I expected mind you)  after the first few chapters.  The use of  “mirror twins” instead of  “identical” was of interest ..especially when it was said that one even had their heart of the reverse side.  I wondered if that could be real… so I googled and came up with this:

The major characteristics of mirror imaged twins is opposite features things such as hair whirls, dominant hands and other features (you can have things like dominant ears, eyes, legs and feet) Mirror twins can have the same eye conditions in opposite eyes and frequently get teeth opposite from each other. Some mirror image twins cross their legs opposite each other.

In extreme cases twins can even have reversed organs.


I do know the first page grabbed me and right away I had questions. Why did Elspeth and her identical twin not see each other or talk to each other for some 20 years?  It was a question that would last most of the book before it all became clear.

Then there are the mirror twins who come to London to take Elspeths gift of an apartment and money from her will.  They were to spend a year in the apartment and then if they wanted to sell it they could.  Their parents (Elspeths twin) and her husband would not be allowed to step foot in the apartment.

With this in hand the story unfolds.  But not before Niffenegger takes a great lesson from Charles Dickens and comes up with some very strange (uncommon) and very defined characters of her own! (wow, what great characters!!!)  And she just doesn’t give you their names and rarely use them… she lets you get to “really know them” and uses them extensively through the book.  So much so that by the end of the book she lets you know how they all wind up and not just how the twins wind up.

This is a great London ghost story complete with a great cemetery that is visited frequently… I have to admit, this would have been a perfect book for RIP… although I can’t say that it’s a scary sort of story so much as a different sort of ghost story.

If you haven’t read this one.. I can say that I think you’d enjoy it should you choose to read it.


Blogger Cath said...

Well now, that's going on my list to grab from the library for RIP in Sept. Excellent review, Pat, you've made me really want to read it when before I wasn't sure... not liking Time Traveler's Wife and all. We'll talk about that and other stuff, later.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Kailana said...

I have owned this since it came out, but STILL haven't read it... One day!

1:22 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

This one sounds good! I'll have to see if I can remember to read it for RIP!

3:17 PM  
Blogger raidergirl3 said...

I picked this up at a used book sale the other day (at the juniour high when I went for parent-teacher interviews - I spent more time at the books than with the teachers!).
I think I will save it for RIP, as it sounds delicious!

8:37 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Wow, this sounds like one that I don't want to miss!

2:39 PM  
Blogger Carl V. said...

So have you managed to get over and read my two reviews from way back when, the spoiler and non-spoiler one? I have to laugh because the spoiler review has an incredible amount of comments and every few months someone else pops in on it and leaves a comment. Often long, thought out ones. This is a book that certainly has divided opinions, that is for sure. I was hooked until the end and was then bitterly disappointed with much of the way she handled the characters. Very much the opposite to the way I felt about Time Traveler's Wife where I cried but still loved the ending.

There is no doubt that she is an incredibly talented writer. I wish it didn't take her so long to put out novels!

1:40 PM  

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