My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Audrey Niffenegger follows up the success of The Time Traveller’s Wife with another excursion into the paranormal, with a compelling tale about a identical twins, Valentina and Julia, and their inheritance of their Aunt Elspeth’s London estate on the borders of Highgate Cemetery. Elspeth is also a twin, estranged sister to the girls’ own mother. In the two flats above and below the girls live two men, Martin, who suffers from severe OCD, and Robert, who is distraught at the loss of Elspeth, his lover. As time passes, the girls each become involved with one of those men. They also discover the presence of a spirit in their new home.
Her Fearful Symmetry is a tour de force, a unique novel about relationships that tells much of the story from the point of view of the ghost. Most of the action takes place either in the apartment building or in the neighboring, highly atmospheric graveyard. Each of the important characters is emotionally disabled, and each fears the loss of the person they most love. As they interact amongst themselves, their strengths and weaknesses become increasingly apparent. The creepiness level rises very slowly, and while the first revelation is less than shocking, the second is a stunner. This is a novel that invites the reader to seriously ponder the choices that are made, along with their repercussions. Even without the paranormal aspects, this book would be powerful.
With Her Fearful Symmetry, Niffenegger joins the ranks of such skilled genre icons as Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin.