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By Audrey Niffenegger
Published by Vintage Books
Published in 2010
Hubby dearest bought this book for me and I was not paid for this review.
Do you ever find that sometimes your reading follows strange and unplanned themes? I had a run of this recently. I read The Thirteenth Tale and then read this book, both books had multiple sets of twins in them and warped family relationships. It's funny how books do that to you sometimes - it's like one book is feeding onto another, interconnected. The relationship between many twins is the same way - you're not totally sure where one twin ends and the other begins. They're close in a way not a lot of people experience or even understand, bonded right down to the cellular level.
Julia and Valentina Poole are two such twins. Young, beautiful, exceptionally gifted but completely directionless, they are drifting through life. Julia, the dominant twin has ideas but no staying power, dragging the submissive Valentina ("Mouse") behind her. Never mind that Valentina has dreams of her own, Julia just assumes that these will be overridden by a desire for them to always be together.
However, an opportunity for change comes when their Aunt Elspeth dies and leaves her London apartment to them... on conditions that they live there for at least one year before they sell it and their mother, Elspeth's twin Edie, and their father never set foot in the house. Intrigued, the twins pack up their lives in America and head for England. When they arrive they encounter Robert, their Aunt's much younger lover who lives downstairs; Martin, a crossword setter who lives upstairs in the throes of severe obsessive compulsive disorder; and various other people who work in the Highgate cemetery over which their apartment looks and with which their lives become entwined.
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I liked this book but at times it is just plain weird. It takes your ability to suspend disbelief right to the outer limits and then some but not because it's a ghost story. What I found weird, and also utterly intriguing, was the dynamics in the relationships. The sense of smothering in the closeness of Julia and Valentina, the constant bugging question of why Elspeth and Edie were estranged for so long, the haunting of the girls by Elspeth... it was all very convoluted. I like twists and I really appreciate it when the author manages to surprise me but this book went above and beyond that. It had me staring at the pages in gobsmacked amazement, shaking my head. Especially at the end. I think it lost a bit of traction at the end and careened off into la-la land.
The Time Traveller's Wife was a heck of an act to follow and I think my experience of this book may have been a little clouded by the fact I enjoyed its predecessor so much. But random plot twists aside, I did enjoy this book. If you haven't yet read it and are considering it, my advice is forget it's written by Audrey Niffenegger. Put Time Traveller's Wife out of your head and you'll find this a fun read. Mind blowing, reality warping, occasionally jaw-dropping but overall, fun.
Have you read this book and/or the Time Traveller's Wife? Let me know your thoughts!
Other reviews of Her Fearful Symmetry:
Bex at An Armchair By The Sea