Posted by: istop4books | February 6, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

This was the first book of the year 2010 and I was so looking forward to it.  It came to me  as a ring through bookcrossing.  I really enjoyed the author’s last book, The Time Traveller’s Wife and was hoping to be swept away with my first read of the new year.
The Premise: Twenty-one year old American twins, Julia and Valentina, receive a letter from the UK informing them that they have inherited everything from their mother’s sister, including a flat in London.  The catch is they have to live there for a year, and their parents are not to step foot in the flat. Their mom and the aunt were estranged and there’s quite a bit of a hush-hush as to why, but the twins don’t ask too many questions and go on to their adventure.  Julia seems to be the more assertive twin and Valentina feels a bit upstaged.  Neither of them are focused and both come off as a bit ditzy, but genuinely kind and concerned girls.  The flat is in a building with an array of offbeat characters, one an over-the-top but loveable man with OCD; another, Robert was the aunt’s lover and is working on a thesis involving the history of Highgate Cemetery, which is right by their building.
So here’s what I thought:
The good stuff first:
The relationship between identical twins was handled very well in 90% of the aspects.
The character of Martin, OCD to the max, was lovingly written and his wife, credible.
The locations were interesting, twins from Lake Forest IL (about 3 miles east of where I lived for 13 years) go to London and take it all in — well done, well described, the British cemetery bits were also fascinating and the behind the scenes of the tours were amusing.
The Kitten of Death was excellent, as were the scenes in the desk drawer (and pardon me for being so cryptic, but otherwise I’d reveal too much).
Where the book lost me:   SPOILER ALERT FROM HERE DOWN
The lack of an autopsy when a 21 year old asthmatic woman dies – that would be a given and therefore the rest of the plot goes to hell in a handbasket.  You just can’t make that up and pretend that an autopsy wouldn’t be performed just to suit your plot, not in this day and age.  Valentina’s lack of sensitivity to the feelings of a) her sister whom she didn’t really hate, she just wanted to have the gumption to stand up to her, and more importantly, to her parents and the grief they would feel at her death.  I found that ridiculous, given the personality the author had painted her with previously.  Who would want to put someone they love through that kind of grief, knowing they think you are dead, while you are actually living a secret life away from everything and everyone you know?
Valentina knew that she could possibly die, yet that was preferable to moving to another continent to get away from her sister, or just maybe ummm, telling her to F off?  Silly.Go to therapy, go to assertiveness training, kill your twin… all would have made better alternatives. Well, maybe not the kill your twin part, but you get the idea. Also what kind of a man was Robert? If he hadn’t agreed to the idea in the first place,  Valentina couldn’t have pulled it off. If he had just said, “if you die, don’t come looking to me to help you.” that would have been the end of it.
It was a page turner with plenty of twists and turns all the way to the end, but it left a bit of a sour note.  So in the end, my first book of the  it just didn’t do it for me, but I was hopeful that my next read would be excellent!

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