Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I listened to this as an audiobook going to and from work these last couple of weeks. The narrator, Bianca Amato, has a wonderful rich voice that lent itself well to the characters. I was truly spellbound listening and didn't mind waiting in traffic, and I was so involved especially near the end that I missed my exit coming into work a couple of times.
This is a ghost story with new twists given to how ghosts behave, what they can do, and what they might long for. It is, in the end, a tale of possession that is wrong morally, spiritually and every other way imaginable.
Two sets of twins who are obsessively close to each other are at the core of the story. Elspeth and Edie have been estranged for 20 years. Edie's daughters inherit Elspeth's flat in London next to Highgate Cemetery upon Elspeth's death. Although they're very intelligent, the twins are the picture of slackerdom. They are happy enough to drift off to London to live in Elspeth's flat for a year before thinking of what they might do next.
Julia and Valentina are mirror twins, physically identical but with a few amazing differences such as their hearts being on the opposite sides. They dress alike and do absolutely everything together. This suits Julia, but Valentina has long harbored a smouldering resentment at the cloying bond and she is willing to do anything, even die, to get out of Julia's grasp.
With the help of her aunt's ghost, she plans to die temporarily, then return to life. Her detailed plot for escape through death has profoundly different results than she expects.
The timelessness of historic Highgate Cemetery runs through the plot. The small gate between the flats and the cemetery is like the thin gate between life and death that the characters try to open and close at will.