Monday, October 19, 2009

A fearfully good follow-up. . .

Audrey Niffenegger is quickly establishing herself as a skillful narrator of unconventional love stories. Her Fearful Symmetry, her new follow-up novel to the best-selling The Time Traveler's Wife is just as quirky (albeit without any naked librarians), and ethereal, and I enjoyed it even more than the first book.
Julia and Valentina are two American mirror twins who have come to London after their recently deceased aunt Elspeth bequeaths them her flat. The only conditions - they must live in the flat for a year and their parents (particularly Elspeth's twin sister) are not allowed to set foot in it during that time.
The twins, suddenly independent, tentatively start exploring the city and the neighbourhood around their building, which is adjacent to Highgate cemetery (home to the graves of George Eliot and Karl Marx among others - there are a few ghostly photographs scattered throughout the book). Formerly inseparable, they also venture into new experiences of their own, especially when they become involved in the lives of their lonely neighbours: Robert, Elspeth's grieving lover who works as a guide in the cemetery, and Martin, a crossword puzzle creator with an obsessive-compulsive disorder, whose wife has just left him. Complicating all of their lives is the ghost of Elspeth, who just doesn't want to leave her former flat, and mischievously observes the living with ulterior motives of her own.
Her Fearful Symmetry is a lot of fun to read veering as it does from the suddenly spooky and supernatural, to passages full of sparkling, spectral wit. Think Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit meets Hitchcock's Vertigo with a little bit of Fingersmith thrown in for good measure. If you are a Sarah Waters fan, you will particularly enjoy this. It's a ghost story, a love story (equal parts romantic and suffocating) and the perfect adult read for Hallowe'en or a cozy evening by the fire as the dark autumn night howls outside the windows.

No comments: