Monday, 6 September 2010
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, Jonathan Cape
Eerie twins anyway: Elspeth and Edie, identical and inseparable, had a catastrophic row sometime in the 1980s. Edie, it seems, split for Chicago and married Jack, father of her twins, Julie and Valentina.
Wow, twins within twins
And wheels within wheels. Elspeth dies, and leaves her flat beside Highgate Cemetery in London to her nieces. So Julie and Valentina head for London, to live in the flat for a year.
Oooh, wish someone would do that for me
Careful what you wish for, babes. Elspeth isn’t a very nice person. The girls move in. Upstairs are Martin and Marijke, downstairs is Robert, who was Elspeth’s lover.
All pair off neatly?
Not so. Martin suffers terribly from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and as we meet her, Marijke is leaving him because she can’t stand to live this way - she can’t even enter the flat without platic bags over her feet.
To keep the place super-clean. Meanwhile, Robert - much younger than his late lover, and haunted by the astonishing similarity between the new twins and Elspeth, is fascinated by them.
Good thing she can’t see that
Ah, but she can. Elspeth has awoken as a ghost in the flat. And from then on it gets weirder and weirder. Niffenegger, author of cult bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife (Now a Major Movie) and other hits, knows how to spring a stunning surprise.
And does it end happily?
It does. A wonderful ending - though it comes after quite a long saggy time in the middle of the book where I was muttering “Ah, get on with it”.
Certainly that. You’ll puff out your cheeks and go “Whoo, wasn’t expecting that at several points.
I particularly liked the Little Kitten of Death, a feral white kitten that comes in from the graveyard and is captured by the ghost and the twins. And the cemetery staff are nice old codgers.