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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY - Audrey Niffenegger

I was entranced with this book from the moment I picked it up: the intriguing cover; the dark and brooding cemetery pictures; even the spooky font of the chapter titles served to fuel my anticipation. Hooked from the first line, “Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup,” and the rest of that first page which contained memories of smells and conversation, and the dying woman calling to her much younger and doting lover who doesn't get there in time to hear her. (sigh)

If you are in the mood for a bit of noir with mystery and romance revolving around a cemetery in London this book is for you. Elspeth, the dying woman bequeaths her flat and most of her possessions to the 21-year-old American twin daughters of her own estranged twin sister. Julia and Valentina must live in the flat for one year before they are allowed to sell it and their parents are not allowed to enter it at any time. Elspeth willed Robert her diaries so the secret as to why she and her sister were estranged resides in his flat, in boxes, unread.

The tiny elfish and pale girls arrive and take up with Elspeth's neighbors, friends and her lover, Robert. Robert is a fascinating character. He is lost without Elspeth and can't seem to get focused. He is working on his master's thesis while serving as an historic guide for Highgate Cemetery. I must confess I see him as Johnny Depp-ish as he works through his grief, tries to keep poor Martin the reclusive OCD victim upstairs in one piece, and help the twins navigate London.

Let us not forget that this is a ghost story. She is residing in the flat with the twins practicing her haunting and getting stronger each day, along with the stray kitten the girls lure into their home. There are many subplots and twisting turns to this book and I loved them all. The reviews weren't all kind when this book hit the stands, but I tend to like what other (and often more educated people) do not. I liked the characters, the complicated plots, the engaging language and even the creepiness.

The adult Literati group at Adams Central has picked this title for our October read and since my friend Al and I are the hosts I wanted to read it in enough time to plan my props and refreshments for the meeting. Absolutely made me half-angry to put it down every day to go to work! I think I am going to serve tea, digestives, and sandwiches but may be not prawn-mayonnaise.

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