Audrey Niffenegger– Her Fearful Symmetry (2010)
What a wonderful story by the author of ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife.’ Niffenegger has created another masterpiece that delicately explores the issues of grief, loss and love.
Julia and Valentina are mirror twins who have been inseparable since the day they were born. They have done everything together, worn the same clothes and know each other so intricately that they are almost one. At 20 years of age, their life of co-dependency is beginning to get stale and their subtle differences begin to shine through. Valentina is the timid, melancholic twin whilst Julia is open to new things and exploring the world- as long as Valentina is firmly by her side.
When their mother Edie’s twin sister Elspeth dies and leaves her apartment to them, Julia and Valentina are presented with the opportunity to live abroad in England to make a proper go at adulthood. Having never met their Aunt due to her existence being unknown to them they begin to wonder what it was that drove their mother and her sister apart all those years ago. Following their 21st birthday, the twins leave behind the comfort of their family life in America and relocate to Elspeth’s flat, which overlooks the Highgate cemetery.
In England, Julia befriends upstairs neighbour Martin who she helps face his pathological obsessions and compulsions. Valentina develops a relationship with her Aunts former lover Robert who resides in the flat downstairs, he is mourning his loss whilst trying to complete a hefty thesis. Julia and Valentina begin to learn about the real world and become to know their aunt Elspeth who seems unable to leave the flat even in her afterlife. What is Elspeth’s deep dark secret?
Valentina starts to see how life could be without her sidekick Julia by her side 24/7 and tries desperately to separate herself to become an individual. But how far does Valentina have to go to live a normal, independent life and how far will Julia push her?
I really loved the character development in this story, I couldn’t stop turning the pages- yet I didn’t want the story to end. It has such a surprising twist that I didn’t even see it coming until it had already happened! This is quite unusual for me as I do tend to pick up on clues in novels and movies quite early on and can inevitably predict the ending. However I was pleasantly surprised that Her Fearful Symmetry challenged my thinking and took me on such a wonderful literary journey. Niffenegger is truly an amazing story teller.
To purchase Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, click on the link.