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Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger I can easily say that this is the best new book I've read this year. If you like deliciously strange ghost stories, this book will definitely satisfy your appetite. I had to make myself read it slowly so that I could savor every morsel of the spell it cast on me when I would read it.

At the center of this novel are twin sisters who inherit their aunt's flat near Highgate Cemetery in London. The twins (Julia and Valentina) are mysterious, delicate, murmuring creatures who are inseparable even at age 21. They're almost ghostlike in their exploration of London and the flat which turns out to be haunted by the real ghost of their aunt Elsbeth. The sisters drift and float into the lives of the other tenants of the building they live in in London. They wander into the lives of Elsbeth's sullen boyfriend and the Little Kitten of Death. The twins also wander into the life of a crossword puzzle maker that's so OCD that he can't leave his own flat (he accidentally washes a hole through the twins' ceiling). Just by existing, it seems that the twins can't help but involuntarily enter into the lives of those around them.

I enjoyed the ghost Niffenegger has created in this novel. Elsbeth (the ghost) can occupy the normal amount of space a regular person might occupy, but she can also squeeze into a locked drawer to sulk for days if she would like. She discovers that she can move dust enough to leave a message written on dust on the piano for the twins. But the best thing she does is decide she wants to touch David Tennant through the television during the Doctor Who episode "The Girl in the Fireplace". As a result, she ends up blowing the television completely. As Elsbeth discovers her ghostly powers, she drives the novel to its obvious but still-interesting conclusion. I just love that Niffenegger was willing to go to the extremes I was hoping she'd go with this novel. While Niffenegger seems to still be obsessed with relationships with large age differences (16 years in this case), she also delves into the topics of suicide, bodysnatching, and ghostly possession in interesting ways.

I found it interesting that the book is written in 3rd person, yet I felt like I was able to be inside the heads of so many strange, lonely people. It seemed that everyone needs something different from those around them. Maybe they want to be separated from those who are smothering them or to be reunited with those who have left them. But it seems that, in the end, only the ones acting the most unselfishly are able to find the happiness that they seek. Maybe we need people more than we think we do, but you can't need someone so much that you smother them.

Note: While I critique both purchased and free books in the same way, I'm legally obligated to tell you I received this book free through the Amazon Vine program in return for my review. Blah blah blah.