So while on holiday I finally got around to reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.
Now, this was always going to be a bit of a big deal because I had so enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I read before starting this blog and have never reviewed here – suffice to say (as I’m sure I already have) that I became heavily emotionally involved with that novel to the point of almost disgracing myself by crying on public transport over the ending.
And I suspect that’s why I waited until this came out in paperback and even after I bought it didn’t leap into reading it immediately, concerned as I was that I might hate it. But thankfully I didn’t (though I get the impression that some other readers were disappointed in it.)
In terms of plot, this is really a story about two sets of twins, Edie and Elspeth, and Edie’s daughters Valentina and Julia. Elspeth dies at the beginning of the novel, never having reconciled with her sister after an estrangement lasting 20 years, and leaves her flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery to her American nieces, with the proviso that Edie never goes there and that her papers are removed by her neighbour and lover Robert. The only fly in the ointment is that Elspeth comes back as a ghost.
Will her presence become known to the other inhabitants? Will the big secret she has been hiding come out? Will there be unintended consequences?
Well, yes, of course there will.
I took absolutely ages to read this, not because I wasn’t enjoying it or didn’t want to know what was going to happen, but possibly just because it was not sufficiently light for a holiday read. I was determined not to set is aside, though, as whenever I did pick it up I enjoyed reading it. It’s fair to say that I didn’t connect with it the way I did with TTTW but I enjoyed the story, though I found Valentina and Julia really annoying at times and was in many ways more interested in Robert, Martin (another neighbour, one with OCD who compiles crosswords), the setting and the practical problems around corporeality in ghosts. I’m ashamed to say that I have lived in London for over 20 years and never once been to any of the great cemeteries, though the pull of both Highgate and Kensal Green is now very strong.
The big secret didn’t really come as a huge revelation; I had already wondered if it was going to be along the lines that it eventually turned out to be (grammatically awful way of expressing it, but I’m sure you know what I mean), although I didn’t get the details exactly right. I also found the ending a little abrupt.
But I have to say that I enjoyed it, and may even pick it up again in the future as, now that I know the story, I’m sure there are nuances that I missed on the first read.
If I had been participating in Carl’s RIP V challenge I would certainly have tried to claim this as my second read.