Her Fearful Symmetry: Book summary and reviews of Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry

A Novel

By Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2009,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers - with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps - their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[W]eakly foreshadowed and confusing twists that take the plot from dull to silly. While Niffenegger's gifted prose and past success will garner readers, the story is a disappointment." - Publishers Weekly

"Gimmickry, supernatural and otherwise, blunts what could have been an incisive inquiry into the mysteries and frustrations of too-close kinship from the talented Niffenegger" - Kirkus Reviews

"Niffenegger's writing can be wearyingly overblown, but she has a knack for taking the romantic into the realm of creepiness, and she constructs a taut mystery around the secrets to be found in Elspeth's diaries and the lengths to which she will go to reunite with her younger lover." - The New Yorker

"Niffenegger brings these quirky, troubled characters to marvelous life, but readers may need their own supernatural suspension of disbelief as the story winds to its twisty conclusion." - Amazon Best of the Month.

"This outing may not be as blindly romantic as The Time Traveler's Wife, but it is mature, complex and convincing—a dreamy yet visceral tale of loves both familial and erotic, a search for Self in the midst of obsession with an Other. Her Fearful Symmetry is as atmospheric and beguiling as a walk through Highgate itself." - The New York Times - Susann Cokal

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Helen bowley
her fearful symmetry
A very interesting book. It was very hard to put it down. It was very easy to get to know the characters.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by EVE
Blissful confusion
I loved this book but am obsessing over trying to figure out who is who! Who did Jack really marry? Who really is the mother of Julia and Valentina. Why did Elspeth and Edie switch places - because of the pregnancy? Which E really had the twins? And why or how could the biological mother give up her babies?
Elspeth is described as being the controlling, conniving twin - but it sounds like the Es made the swith and Edie moves to London, gives up her twins and becomes Elsbeth and the one who turns out to be the controlling, devious one who died and the real mother of Julia and Valentina? The real Elsbeth then moves to Chicago to become Jack's wife and mother of the twins. At the end of the book we find out that Jack knows he has been living with Elsbeth all these years.
Robert becomes the loser in the relationship - where does he go? Does he go back to London or does he commit suicide?
Short of emailing the author to find out who is really who, I am still so confused!!!!

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Melissa (Books R Us)
A ghost story
I enjoyed most of the book and the ghost story theme. There were parts of the book that dragged on, and some of the characters became boring. I was tempted to stop reading but I continued on. The character I liked the best was Martin( who has OCD ) and I was able to understand him. Although he had his problems, he was a decent and funny man. I am happy that I finished the book because there were some twists in the storyline that I did not expect and the ending was bizarre. The book was good if you can get through the boring parts.

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Author Information

Audrey Niffenegger Author Biography

Audrey Niffenegger trained as a visual artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her MFA from Northwestern University’s Department of Art Theory and Practice. She has exhibited her artist’s books, prints, paintings, drawings and comics at Printworks Gallery in Chicago since 1987. Her first books were printed and bound by hand in editions of ten. Two of these have since been commercially published by Harry N. Abrams: The Adventuress and The Three Incestuous Sisters.

Initially imagined as a graphic novel, Niffenegger realized that her idea for a book about a time traveler and his wife would be difficult to represent in still images. She began to work on the project as a novel, and published The Time Traveler’s Wife in 2003 with the independent ...

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