Year 4, Book 74

74. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I absolutely adored Niffenegger’s first book, The Time Traveler’s Wife, so I was very excited to read her newest novel. For the first 60 pages I was in love with this book. It was everything I hoped it would be. The beginning chapters had so much heart and wonderful turn of phrase. Then the ghost showed up and everything went downhill. The story starts with the death of Elspeth Noblin. She leaves her flat in London to the twin daughters of her own estranged twin sister with the condition that they must live in the flat for one year before they are allowed to sell it and that their parents are not be allowed in the flat. There are two other flats in the building containing the other major characters of the book. The flat below contains Robert, Elspeth’s younger lover, who is writing his thesis on Highgate Cemetary, which borders the flat. The flat above contains Martin a man crippled by OCD, whose wife of 25 years leaves him in the beginning chapters to return to her native Amsterdam as she is no longer able to live within the confines of Martin’s OCD. The beginning chapters detailing the Robert’s loss of Elspeth and the separation of Martin and Marijke were beautiful. The introduction of Elspeth’s nieces Julia and Valentina and the bizarre stipulation of their inheritance leaves an intriguing mystery about what happened between Elspeth and her twin Edie to result in this absolute estrangement. The book at this point had such potential, but then Julia and Valentina come to live in the flat and discover the ghost of Elspeth living there as well. Then things go from bad to worse with a ridiculously contrived plot that turns the novel into a farce. I won’t share what that plot is in case you actually care to read the book as I wouldn’t want to give anything away. I’m horribly disappointed in this book, not because it didn’t live up to The Time Traveler’s Wife, but because it didn’t live up to itself. I give it a 4 out of 10.

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