I read The Time Traveler’s Wife at Thanksgiving, 2007. It was an amazing book, I figuratively could not put it down. It sort of defies genre — the title alone both implies a romance, and science-fiction, but really, it’s just really amazing literature.
So when Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry was released this month, based solely on the strength of Time Traveler’s Wife (okay, and maybe reading that she was really well compensated for it), I snatched up a copy. If I’d checked Atlas — the database we use at the Bookstore to keep track of stock — perhaps I should’ve been concerned that the book had been out for four days and I was the first person to buy a copy*.
I didn’t get to it right away — I was in the middle of another book, and then The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest arrived, and I had to dig into that.
But as soon as I was done (it was pretty good, by the way, but I think The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is still my favorite in the series), I picked up Her Fearful Symmetry. I really didn’t know much about the book, except that it’s a ghost story set in Highgate Cemetery in London. The perfect late October read, right?
The story concerns two sets of twins — Elspeth and Edie are estranged from each other, Elspeth living in a big flat next to the cemetery in London, Edie overseas in America with her husband Jack and their own twins, Julia and Valentina. When Elspeth dies, she leaves the flat to the twins with the condition that they must live in it for a year before selling it. The twins accept the terms, fly to London, and live in this big flat, next to this spooky cemetery, with a couple of eccentric neighbors and, oh yeah, a ghost of their dead aunt who is trying to communicate with them. Meanwhile, Valentina feels smothered by Julia, and is trying to plan an impossible escape.
The book was a quick read, but it wasn’t a particularly compelling read, and I found myself disappointed when I finished the book. Whereas with Time Traveler’s Wife, I felt very strongly Clare’s sense of loss, I was just sort of “Oh, is that what happened? Is this over yet?” Because I was excited to dig into my current read: Matthew Pearl’s The Last Dickens (so far, my judgement** is that The Poe Shadow was superior, but I’m only about 50 pages or so in).
Also, an odd note about Her Fearful Symmetry — Niffenegger is American, but the book is written with British English slang and spelling. This makes sense — she did live in England, I believe, while writing or researching the book, and Edie and Elspeth are English, but Julia and Valentina are Americans living in England. Maybe the BE usage is a metaphor for assimilation?
*The first person at the store, anyway.
**I have always spelled “judgement” with two of the letter “E”, but according to Wikipedia, that’s the British spelling. Weird.