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

by Audrey Niffenegger

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,100384877 (3.39)319
Member:AmyLC
Title:Her Fearful Symmetry
Authors:Audrey Niffenegger
Info:Scribner (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 406 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, ghosts, England, cemeteries

Work details

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Recently added byMLRALibrary, mike281186, deep220, zjakkelien, private library, MaraBlaise, crashmyparty
  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. 91
    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)
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    heidialice: Similar in setting, and both ghost stories, these are very different books, but fans of one should be interested in the other.
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» See also 319 mentions

English (375)  Dutch (4)  German (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (383)
Showing 1-5 of 375 (next | show all)
I liked the cozy atmosphere of this book. Strange, when you think it takes place next to a cemetery, but it was mostly cozy nonetheless. I also liked the sense of mystery, not just the fact that there are ghosts, but that there is a secret known only to the mother-aunt twins. In the beginning, I also liked the bond the twins had, until it became more clear that their relationship was actually majorly unhealthy. It was my hope that the move to London would improve that, but it didn't. Towards the end I got more and more dissatisfied with the majority of the characters. The timid twin's idea of how to become more independent is ridiculous, and several people actually cooperating instead of sending her to a psychiatrist is even more ridiculous. It felt completely unrealistic. I cannot believe that even an enormously selfish woman like Elspeth would consider killing her own daughter. And Robert may have been dominated by her, but that does not excuse his role either. Then the timid twin herself (forgot her name)! Her being this selfish and cruel does not seem to fit her character at all. With a different ending this could have been 4 stars for me, but now it feels like a 3.5. ( )
  zjakkelien | Dec 13, 2014 |
Very well-written and compelling to read. I loved the two sets of twins and the presence of mental fragility in some of the characters. It was also a beautifully rendered view of Highgate Cemetry and made me long for London, with it's many personalities.
I'm not usually taken by ghost stories, but for this one I will absolutely make an exception. ( )
  SallyApollon | Dec 7, 2014 |
I have mixed feelings about this novel. On the one hand I read it quickly because I wanted to find out what happened, but on the other I found some of the characters' behaviour unbelievable. I just couldn't believe that the gruesome plan that's hatched in the last quarter or so of the book would be countenanced by its participants. If anything, it's sickening, and how any of them could see it as a feasible solution to a certain problem stretches credulity until it snaps. The only thing I could think was that the participants were selfish, stupid and/or weak to the extreme. I did find myself balking at reading the climax of that particular section. However, it wasn't as revolting as I feared it might be.

It's hard to warm to any of the characters, because all of them have traits that are irritating or they are plain stupid. While this does add a sense of realism - because who, in reality, is perfect? - the traits and stupidity did start getting on my nerves. But the setting of the novel is great - the old house overlooking Highgate Cemetary. I enjoyed learning about the history of Highgate and being given a glimpse of some of its fascinating stories. The writing is smooth and skilled, and the ghost of the novel is very different from the usual kind, being a strong and participating character in the story, not just a scary threat in the shadows.

I thought we were going to get a finish rather like 'The Monkey's Paw', and there is a short scene that seems to flag that that's the way it's heading, but then everything changes and the truly horrible becomes somewhat mundane. Still, it's an unusual tale, and I've not read anything like it, which is a great thing to be able to say about a book nowadays. ( )
1 vote Storm_Constantine | Nov 11, 2014 |
Though not in the same league as "The Time Traveler's Wife", "Her Fearful Symmetry" is a twisted and articulate tale about the importance of identity. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jul 26, 2014 |
I was a little apprehensive in picking this one up after reading some mediocre (and less than mediocre) reviews - and I only had a few days to read it before it was due back the library, and I was worried I'd slog through it. Perhaps my low expectations had something to do with it, but I was pleasantly surprised, and really enjoyed this.

I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the whole thing. Niffenegger does a wonderful job of setting the stage for the novel. It starts out with a realistic depiction of our world, with a slight creepy factor due to Highgate Cemetery neighboring the flat. And then, of course, there's the haunting. From the summaries I'd read, I wasn't sure how literal this haunting would be - just an overbearing sense that Elspeth still "owned" the flat? Her belongings and what she left behind keeping the twins from feeling like it was their home? The hold her memory still has on Robert and the others she knew? Or the actual presence of a ghost? It turned out to be the latter, and I thought the "haunting" factor was very well done. It's gradually built up so that it's almost believable, with Elspeth beginning as a weak, vaporous spirit and eventually becoming capable of moving small objects, etc., and the atmosphere is a big help in allowing the reader to suspend disbelief.

Speaking of which, the reader's ability to do just that is important for this one, I think. A lot of other reviews I read said the ending took it too far, pushing it past the point of believability. I can see how; there are several twists at the end, some more far-fetched than others, and one that I saw coming from early on in the book. Nonetheless, I think she ended it the only way she could, if that one big twist (if you've read it, you know which one I'm talking about - I don't want to give anything away!) is something she was aiming for through the whole novel, and I get the impression that she was. One the whole, it was beautifully written, and with great characterization (I especially liked Martin, and it was interesting to see how his journey - or lack thereof - paralleled Elspeth's). There were a couple of things that bothered me about the ending, but on the whole I really enjoyed this once I allowed myself to get lost in it. ( )
  ashleyk44 | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 375 (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
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.)
Disambiguation notice
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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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