Hey everyone! My name is Anjali, and I blog over at From L&P to English Tea. I’m really excited to be guest posting today, and to be a part of this great new blog project! I’ve been doing book reviews over on my blog for a while now, but I was really pumped to be able to contribute to this one. Just a few quick things about me: I’m a New Zealander who has recently moved to England after finishing my Philosophy Degree at the end of 2011. I love books (obviously) and movies, and like to think that I am an artist, musician, photographer and occasional writer. I love DIY and am forever making things and filling up my house with bits and pieces where ever I can find room. Oh and I have a slight (okay…quite large) obsession to Harry Potter. Nice to meet you!
Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger
I picked this book up in a charity shop about a month or so ago, and the main reason it caught my eye was that it was written by the same author who wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife. I love that book, and I seem to recall giving it a 5 out of 5 on my blog. If The Time Traveler’s Wife was anything to go on, then Her Fearful Symmetry, I thought, would be a good book. And for the most part, it was.
The book is about twin girls Julia and Valentina Poole who left their American home to move to London, England into a beautiful flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery. Their aunt, Elspeth (their mother’s twin sister), had just died and left them the flat, with a few conditions – they had to live there for a year and then they could decide whether or not to move on, and the girls’ parents were not allowed in the flat at all. Strange terms, I know, but there we have it. The story follows the girls as they arrive in a new place, meet the neighbours, explore London and figure out the Underground, and later on discovering that their Aunt actually never left the flat at all – and it becomes a ghost story.
For all of you who like a bit of the supernatural in your novels, this isn’t really your typical ghost story at all. Without giving too much away (sometimes I feel like I do that), Niffenegger writes Elspeth-the-Ghost into the story as though it’s the most natural thing in the world. Much like her time-travelling man in The Time Traveler’s Wife, she has taken a supernatural element and made almost…well, natural. There is a mixture of themes/topics/issues, such as friendship, love, loss, separation, family secrets (BIG family secrets!!), a man who won’t leave his flat, and sisterhood bonding and the need for individuality.
The book is easy to read with just the right balance of description and conservation, and though I found that there were a few chapters that probably really didn’t need to be in there as they didn’t seem to add to the story at all, it was quite an enjoyable read. I also found that it was quite funny in some points, because Niffenegger writes about what the girls thought of London and England, there were many times when I thought “Yup! That’s exactly how I find it too.” For me, it was easy to relate to some of what the girls went through, because, being a ‘stranger in this land’, as my Mum puts it, there are a lot of things that I have to get used to being here, and it was the same for Julia and Valentina.
All in all, it was an easy going, makes-you-want-to-believe-in-ghosts story that, even after a slow-ish middle section, really picked up at the end with some startling events. I recommended this book for people who perhaps, don’t really like the supernatural/fantasy sort of genre, but feel they should read something in that area anyway. Does that make sense? It’s naturally supernatural, and that, I think, is something that Audrey Niffenegger does really well.
Review written by guest blogger Anjali.