Group Read Number 2


her-fearful-symmetry_1Torn between several books & wanting to choose something completely different from our last read, I’ve gone with Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I read it several years ago, on a recommendation from someone who loved the way the setting of Highgate Cemetery played into the book.  I remember the well realised relationship between the main characters, the mysterious element of their aunt’s secrets, and the intriguing ghostly theme.  I hope you enjoy it.

Fiona (Reader Development Team)

The back cover reads:

When Elspeth Noblin dies she leaves her beautiful flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina Poole, on the condition that their mother is never allowed to cross the threshold. But until the solicitor’s letter falls through the door of their suburban American home, either Julia nor Valentina knew their aunt existed. The twins hope that in London their own, separate, lives can finally begin but they have no idea that they’ve been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt’s mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them and works in the cemetery itself. As the twins unravel the secrets of their aunt, who doesn’t seem quite ready to leave her flat, even after death, Niffenegger weaves together a delicious and deadly ghost story about love, loss and identity.

We would love as many people as possible to read along and join in with the discussion; it is easy to add your comments using the box below. You don’t have to be a member of our libraries or resident in this Borough, County or Country even! The beauty of a virtual book club – or reading group – is that anyone can join in by using this blog or our Facebook group. If you are a member of our Libraries you just get the added benefit of being able to borrow from our stock. For more information about how to become a member follow this link.

Thank you to Fiona for choosing this second read; I have also read it before but I am really excited to visit it again as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Nic (Reader Development Team)


7 thoughts on “Group Read Number 2

  1. This book is so intriguing that I have also had to borrow a copy for my anti-fiction husband, which he is now completely hooked on after hearing me talk about it! It’s definitely worth a read and, I’m happy to say, also stands up to re-reading.
    Although the novel begins with Elspeth’s death, that is not the end of her story. In fact when her nieces arrive in London to take up residence in her flat, it is soon clear that Elspeth is there too. And she is soon making plans of her own.
    Elspeth and her twin, Edie, were estranged for many years before her death, yet you know that they used to be as close as Valentina and Julia are now. But Valentina is desperate to have her own identity. Overwhelmed by the dominant character of her twin, Julia, she wants to grow up and away from their suffocatingly close relationship, but doesn’t know how to go about it. This desire becomes stronger as she grows closer to her first serious boyfriend, and her plans to take charge of her own life become bound up with Elspeth’s own desires and burgeoning strength.
    The story is, in many ways, claustrophobic. Valentina and Julia’s relationship, Martin’s liberty limiting OCD, Robert’s overwhelming grief for Elspeth and his feelings for the twins and of course Elspeth’s entrapment in her own flat are all constricting elements, mirrored by the looming presence of Highgate Cemetery. While not a sinister place, it has a powerful presence in the novel and a key role in events. It is yet another reminder that the dead continue to be bound up in our lives even after they have gone.
    But it is not a grim book. It is unsettling, uncomfortable and shocking (it literally took my breath away in two places), but the author’s writing still lets the light in and lovers of London will enjoy the descriptions of the city.
    As the book jacket blurb says, it really is about love, loss and identity. It explores how these are all entangled with each other and the desperate lengths that people will go to to get what they want. And it may not be at all the ending you are expecting, but I think that it does fit with the idea of consequence and the reality that the most deserving are not necessarily the best rewarded.


  2. Normally I wouldn’t have picked this book myself but Nic told me it was a good read and it certainly was. The author writes in a very descriptive way which I enjoy. The story kept me wondering what was going to happen next. A thoroughly good read can’t wait to read the Time Travellers Wife.


  3. Like Fiona, this is the second time that I have read this book as I also discovered it a few years ago. I was totally thrilled and engaged by Niffenegger’s ‘The Time Travellers Wife’ and I remember that I wasn’t disappointed by her follow up novel. Written in a descriptive and accessible style this novel, much like her last, has the ability to make the most unbelievable concepts seem everyday. Characters are strong, fully formed and totally believable, and the story is absorbing.

    I am definitely happy to have read the book again. I feel that I interpreted the complicated relationships differently on this second reading as I wasn’t rushing to find out what happened, to whom or when. Now that I have finished this reading, I tend to think that everyone in the story found peace by the end of the book and I am not sure if I felt this so strongly the first time around. I remember feeling particularly angry and suspicious about one of the main characters but this time I feel much less judgmental; what does one do when placed in such an impossible and improbable position?

    Thanks Fiona for choosing this book. I tend not to re-read stories, even ones that I have loved, as there are just too many books to get through! I loved it, though perhaps this time for different reasons. Nic.


  4. What an intriguing book. I have never read anything of this genre before, and would never have personally chosen it (there lies the reason for being in the group read). However, I found it interesting and intriguing, and a little spooky. I found the writing descriptive but accessible and it flowed easily. I particularly loved the sudden end and how it both contrasted with the writing throughout yet brought everything to a conclusion.


  5. I did not enjoy Her Fearful Symmetry at all, in fact I have given up on this novel all together. There are some big issues dealt with in this book that I thought the author rushed through and was very unsympathetic towards her characters and her readers that have gone through similar situations. illness, death, and poor Martin’s OCD and the affects that these big ordeals that these characters have gone through was rushed, with no real depth and understanding. In some cases made her characters very unsympathetic. This book could have been so much better, if the author had taken the time to cover such big life changing issues in more depth, and expanded on her characters more.


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