Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger (Finished Feb. 28)

I read "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger a while back, and I really enjoyed that, so I thought I would give this book a try.  She has an interesting writing style, and I really like it.  

The story starts off with the death of a woman named Elspeth, who is a twin.  Elspeth lived in England, and was a rare book collector.  Her twin sister, Edie, lives in the states with her twin teen-aged daughters, Julia and Valentina, and her husband.  Once Elspeth has passed, the girls receive her will, in which everything was left to them.  They were required to live in the flat she owned for 1 year before selling it, and the girls were not allowed to have their parents in the flat at all.  

The girls are eager to spend some time away from home, and are excited about staying in London.  Once they arrive in London, they find that the flat is haunted.  Things are misplaced or moved all the time, and they are unable to figure out what is causing it.  Their upstairs neighbor, Martin, is paranoid and suffers severely from OCD (to the point that he is unable to leave his own house), and their downstairs neighbor, Robert, was Elspeth's lover. 

There is a very interesting dynamic in the relationship between the twins and their dead aunt.  The girls end up communicating with Elspeth by first using a ouiji board, and then by asking questions out loud while Elspeth moved a pen and wrote on paper.  There is a lot of mystery surrounding the communication, and Robert seems to spend a lot of time doing this.  He is still very in love with Elspeth, and is almost lost without her.  Through this communication he is almost able to still be with her. 

The twins find a cat outside, and lure him into the house.  The cat enjoys playing with the girls, and it seems like maybe the cat can sense that Elspeth is there too.  One day, while playing with the cat, Elspeth runs her fingers through the cat, and accidentally removes the cats soul.  After many attempts she is able to get the soul back into the cat.  Julia has been struggling with her relationship with Valentina for a long time.  She is tired of being a twin, and wants to be her own person, but Valentina won't allow that.  Julia watches the soul get ripped from the cat, and then placed back into the cat, and forms a plan.  She wants Elspeth to remove her soul, so that everyone will think she is dead, and then put it back a few days later so that Julia can start a new life.   Elspeth is completely against the plan from the get go, but with a lot of persuading, she finally gives in. 

The plan doesn't work out as well as they thought it would.  Julia's soul is taken from her body, and Elspeth takes care of it while everyone goes through the motions of Julia's death and funeral.  When trying to get the soul back into Julia, it doesn't work, and Elspeth ends up hopping into Julia's body.  The reader starts to realize that this is what Elspeth had planned on from the beginning.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this book that I didn't see coming.  At the end, the reader finds out that Elspeth and Edie had switched places a long time ago.  There was a crazy love triangle between Elspeth, Edie, and Edie's husband.  Through all of the craziness, the husband had actually gotten the other twin pregnant.  Edie and Elspeth decide to switch places, just to make things easier.  

A few things about this book I didn't really care for -- first of all, I thought the twin gene skipped a generation...I also wasn't too fond of Julia or Valentina, although I felt like I should have connected with one of them.  

I think the story was great, with a little bit of weirdness, but still enough to keep me hooked.

Four out of five stars.

Happy Reading!


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