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Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
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Her Fearful Symmetry (edition 2010)

by Audrey Niffenegger

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,147387867 (3.39)325
Member:trisweather
Title:Her Fearful Symmetry
Authors:Audrey Niffenegger
Info:Vintage (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:twins, tvillinger, life choices, ghosts, spøgelser, OCD

Work details

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

  1. 142
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (obscurelens, sruszala, lahochstetler)
    obscurelens: Story about twins and ghosts. Darker than Her Fearful Symmetry, but I think it's far better than this.
    lahochstetler: Gothic tales of devoted twin sisters, love, and death.
  2. 81
    Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla by Felix Barker (lilithcat)
    lilithcat: For those who wish to know more about this book's setting, I highly recommend Barker's. It includes an essay on the history of Highgate, one on well-known burials, and has a section of wonderful photographs. Highgate is very unlike the manicured, geometrically laid-out modern cemeteries, and, if those are the only ones with which you are familiar, Barker gives you a sense of the atmosphere this young American women encountered.… (more)
  3. 41
    The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (heidialice)
    heidialice: If you couldn't get enough of Martin and Marijke, or were hoping for a something a bit more like "The Time Traveler's Wife" try "The Gargoyle".
  4. 20
    The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb (VictoriaPL)
  5. 20
    The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue (cataylor)
    cataylor: Both books deal with a spirit trapped in the afterlife who observe the living.
  6. 20
    A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb (wegc)
    wegc: Both books are from the point of view of a ghost interacting with the real world, wanting love.
  7. 54
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (heidialice, Othemts)
    heidialice: Similar in setting, and both ghost stories, these are very different books, but fans of one should be interested in the other.
  8. 10
    Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon (Ciruelo)
  9. 87
    The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Cecilturtle, krizia_lazaro)
  10. 32
    A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle (Ciruelo)
    Ciruelo: Both feature a single man with a devoted attachment to a graveyard and its restless ghost.
  11. 00
    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (sturlington)
  12. 00
    Soulmates by Miranda Glover (Hollerama)
  13. 00
    Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier (KayCliff)
  14. 00
    Charlie St. Cloud: A Novel by Ben Sherwood (becksdakex)
    becksdakex: Death, family, ghosts.
  15. 00
    26a by Diana Evans (terran)
  16. 00
    The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (sturlington)
  17. 00
    Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers (Othemts)
  18. 01
    The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman (Miranda_Paige)
  19. 01
    The River King by Alice Hoffman (Miranda_Paige)
  20. 24
    The Other by Thomas Tryon (Ciruelo)

(see all 21 recommendations)

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» See also 325 mentions

English (378)  Dutch (4)  German (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (386)
Showing 1-5 of 378 (next | show all)
This is a ghost story, but not a good one. I couldn't really connect with the characters. I finished it hoping it would improve, but it didn't. If you enjoy the first 50 pages you will enjoy the rest, but I didn't enjoy it. Not up to the standard of the Time Traveller's Wife (TTW is one of my favorite books). ( )
  Neale | May 1, 2015 |
After giving myself a day or two's distance from this, I can give it a four. I loved her writing, as haphazard and slapdash as it was, moving here and there, inside of one person's head and immediately into another's. She sort of wrote like an artist, painting with words, flitting all over the place emotionally. It is one of those books that will stick with me, and because of that I feel like it is worth reading. But it was also strange, and often dark. I didn't like the suggestion that people who die are stuck, unable to move on. It was a very hopeless view of death. But she certainly pulled me into her world, and I like it when a book can do that. Very different than Time Traveler's Wife, but I can see similar themes. ( )
  KR_Patterson | Apr 28, 2015 |
Julia and Valentina, mirror-image twins, inherit their Aunt Elspeth’s estate in London after her death with the condition that they must live in her apartment together for one year before the estate fully passes to them. Valentina, the meeker of the two sisters, begins fighting for her own independence and finds an ally in Robert, Elspeth’s lover, and Elspeth herself, a ghost living in the apartment.

I have never read The Time Traveler’s Wife or even seen the movie, which may account for why I had a very different perception of the novel than other reviewers. To me, Her Fearful Symmetry starts off slow and builds into a delightfully creepy ghost story. It reminds me of M.R. James or The Thirteenth Tale (come to think of it, that might be where I first heard of it, in a ‘for those who like…’ recommendation), particularly with the heavy Gothic influence.

There are some problems with the book. Though Martin and Marijke’s story is sweet and moving, it also has little connection to the overall plot. Julia could have just as easily have been said to be ‘out exploring London’ with little change. Additionally, it does build extremely slowly. This is characteristic of Gothic mysteries, but I wonder if the book would not have benefited from the judicious excision of some of the less interesting chapters. Additionally, the ending felt rather weak and drawn-out. The ending felt pat: Martin overcomes his fear and reunites with Marijke, Julia falls in love with Theo, Jack reveals he’s known all along, Valentina feels free, etc. It felt like someone trying to tack on a happy ending to a ghost story. Had it been a short story, the perfect moment to end it would have been when Valentina opens her eyes and Robert says, “I love you too… Elspeth” (575). Either way, the ending felt antithetical to the rest of the story. Take Valentina, for instance. We are meant to believe that she is finally happy and free, because she is a ghost free of Julia’s influence, but the whole point was that Valentina wanted to live her own life, not live her own death. I honestly thought Niffenegger was doing something rather clever, where the whole plot to extricate herself from her twin backfired, and Valentina was doomed to forever be with Julia as a ghost. Instead, there was the tacked-on happy ending.

Still, there are a few brilliant touches. The nods to the Victorian’s idea of being buried alive and grave-robbing and Valentina’s plot for resurrection and Robert sneaking her body out of the mausoleum. The constant references to the crows flying from the cemetery and the ending wherein we find out they are serving as ghost taxi-cabs. Even the twins joking about zombies at the very beginning, when they arrive in London and the mentions of M.R. James and Henry James as a sort of wink and nod to the classic ghost tale.

I also adore Elspeth’s character. At first, you feel sorry for her, seeing her only as the poor woman who dies of cancer without ever seeing her twin nieces; slowly, you start to see her as she was: brilliant, determined, and vibrant, even in her death (ghostliness?); then Robert’s cryptic warnings to Valentina, “Elspeth isn’t nice. Even when she was alive she wasn’t very – she was witty and beautiful and fantastically original in – certain ways, but now that she’s dead she seems to have lost some essential quality – compassion, or empathy, some human thing – I don’t think you should trust her” (477); and finally, the culmination of her manipulations. Her sudden change of heart in helping Valentina makes sense as you realize that is when she thought of how she could use the plan to her advantage. Even her explanation to Robert that Valentina’s plan would never have worked because Valentina wasn’t “strong enough yet” threw me – what about Kitten? – before I realized that it could just as easily have been her trying to soothe his guilt, a smooth lie told with utter selfishness.

Are there some problems? Yes, particularly with the ending. But Niffenegger is a solid writer, and if you read this not as a faithful, realistic character study in human drama, but a Gothic ghost story, then you won’t be disappointed.
( )
  kittyjay | Apr 23, 2015 |
I really wanted to love this book more than I did. There was so much potential since the author wrote The Time Traveler's Wife, you know the greatness is in there. It just didn't appear in this book. It was an interesting concept but, without giving anything away, there wasn't a moment when I was totally gobsmacked. And how badly I wanted to be. Unfortunately, I saw the twist so early on. I was in fact surprised it didn't come earlier with the Kitten of Death. There was just entirely too much foreshadowing that took place let alone too much that was completely far-fetched. I think that this book actually would have done much better set in a Victorian/Gothic setting. Modern day makes it too hard to be believe that if a person wants out of a relationship they can't just leave. Case in point: Marijke. Which brings me to the entire Martin storyline... why? I found it very interesting as a short story included in this novel. But I saw in no way that the characters of Martin and Marijke had any impact on the plot whatsoever. If you can forget about Time Traveler's Wife and all its greatness, then you will find this book enjoyable. ( )
1 vote she_climber | Jan 21, 2015 |
I really enjoyed Time Traveler's Wife and found this one entertaining (at least enough to accompany me on runs), but not quite as good. It had lots of interesting and compelling components: identical twin girls, one of whom has identical twin girls, but a fall out has left the elder twins estranged... until, after death, the remote twin manages to lure the young twins away; a neighbor with OCD and agoraphobia, whose fed up wife abandons him, who could make a novel of his own; the remote older twin's young lover who feels lost after her death, but then gets caught up with the younger generation. Add a few ghosts and the ability to communicate with them. While it was entertaining and made me want to visit London (again) and Highgate Cemetery, the conclusion left me feeling empty about every single one of the characters although I'd initially enjoyed them. Hmm. ( )
1 vote asawyer | Dec 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 378 (next | show all)
Niffenegger’s story is written with a lightness of touch and with a great eye for the oddities of human behaviour.
 
Instead of fabricating ghosts and faux-Englishmen, it's a shame that Niffeneggers didn't just cut away all the cobwebby Halloween trappings and write a moving, realistic story about a man with OCD who is trapped for real, rather than ersatz, reasons in a flat overlooking a cemetery. She sustains a mood, but it is vaguely repellent, rather than enjoyably disquieting. Instead of a lingering, unforgettable ghost story, this is the novelistic equivalent of a cut-rate séance, a parlour game complete with Ouija boards and cheap theatrics, as unconvincing as knuckles rapping under tables
 
Niffenegger has always identified loss as her main subject, but here at least it’s dissolution: the grim inevitability of decay. The theme of doubleness feeds into this. Valentina wants to break free of the controlling Julia and live her own life, but can she survive without her? Forced togetherness, the “fearful symmetry” of the title, can lead to a diminution of individual identity, a merging of personalities. Sometimes apartness is preferable.
added by riverwillow | editThe Times, John O'Connell (Oct 10, 2009)
 
Niffenegger is an extraordinarily sensitive and accomplished writer, and Her Fearful Symmetry is a work of lovely delicacy... But Her Fearful Symmetry is not a book of great emotional force, not the way Time Traveler's Wife was.
added by Shortride | editTime, Lev Grossman (Oct 5, 2009)
 
Mysteries and truths slowly unravel as the story progresses. The major plot resolves predictably, but its grim inevitability fits well with the genre, and a few more surprising twists produce an even more satisfying read than Niffenegger’s bestselling debut.
 

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Audrey Niffeneggerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Niffenegger, AudreyAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Amato, BiancaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Korhonen, PaulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
She said, "I know what it's like to be dead.
I know what it is to be sad."
And she's making me feel like I've never been born.
--The Beatles
Dedication
For Jean Pateman, with love
First words
Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small paper cup.
Quotations
As a historian he knew that any trove of documents has incendiary potential. So the boxes sat like unexploded ordinance on the floor of his bedroom and Robert did his best to ignore them.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Book description
A compelling novel about love and the power of life. Thetwins Julia and Valentina have an abnormally strong mutualband. On one day they get a letter from a British lawyer. Their auntElspeth Noblin, who they never met, is deceased and let herLondon apartment after her nichtjes.Nadat them from their surpriseare obtained, the girls decide to seize this opportunity for adventure andElspeth move to beautiful apartment, overlooking the Highgatecemetery in London. They learn the other occupants of the buildingknow, including Robert, the lover of their deceased Aunt Elspeth, whoall about the cemetery seems to know. Along, the girlsthat there is much life on Highgate. Especially their aunt seems her earthly life not to leave behind

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Een meeslepende roman over liefde en de kracht van het leven. De tweelingzusjes Julia en Valentina hebben een abnormaal sterke onderlinge band. Op een dag krijgen ze een brief van een Engelse advocaat. Hun tante Elspeth Noblin, die ze nooit ontmoet hebben, is overleden en laat haar Londense appartement na aan haar nichtjes.Nadat ze van hun verbazing bekomen zijn, besluiten de meisjes deze kans op avontuur te grijpen en te verhuizen naar Elspeths prachtige flat, die uitkijkt op de Highgate begraafplaats in Londen. Ze leren de andere bewoners van het gebouw kennen, onder wie Robert, de minnaar van hun overleden tante Elspeth, die alles over de begraafplaats lijkt te weten. Gaandeweg ontdekken de meisjes dat er nog veel leven is op Highgate. Vooral hun tante lijkt haar aardse leven niet goed achter zich te kunnen laten
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After they inherit a London flat near Highgate Cemetery from their aunt Elspeth Noblin, two American twin teenagers move in, but they soon discover that much is still alive at Highgate, including, perhaps, their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old lifebehind.… (more)

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