Her Fearful Symmetry

  • by Audrey Niffenegger
  • Narrated by Bianca Amato
  • 13 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt; they only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers - with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building's other residents, including Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery.As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps - their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life - even after death.

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What the Critics Say

"[S]he has a knack for taking the romantic into the realm of creepiness, and she constructs a taut mystery around the secrets to be found in Elspeth's diaries and the lengths to which she will go to reunite with her younger lover. It's no small achievement that the revelations are both organic and completely unexpected." (The New Yorker)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

What a waste

It would be nice to rate the first 2/3 of the book and the last 1/3 separately. Four and a half stars and then one star. It felt kind of like fourth grade...you work really hard on a story, it is going well, then you get tired of doing it and go for a bizarre ending to get out of having to think anymore. Kind of like, "and then the aliens landed and all the pilgrims were eaten by carnivorous plants." If this book were discussed in a Thursday Next (Jasper Fforde) novel, they would probably say that the author had bought a cheap and ridiculous plot device to get out of finishing it. What a waste of interesting characters and complex issues. Could have been great.
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- Shel

A little disappointed

I loved "Time Traveler's Wife" and was really excited to get this book when it came out. I was less excited by the time I finished the book.

"Her Fearful Symmetry" started off well - interesting characters, a mysterious conflict, unusual demands in a will. By the end, however, things had become so preposterous that I was peeved.

It wasn't the supernatural elements that were preposterous - like "Time Traveler's Wife", the not-real-life (paranormal) setup was good. If you were willing to suspend disbelief for a little, the situation was believable.

What didn't make sense were the choices the characters made. For example, and without giving away too much, the huge dissatisfaction that one of the main characters experienced pretty much came out of nowhere - and the character's idea for resolving it was just nuts.

On the other hand, the narrator was really good. Her switching between accents was surprisingly good and her characterizations were very believable.

On balance, I guess I enjoyed the book - there were enough good parts to it. I am disappointed that it didn't stick together well enough in the last third, but I like Niffenegger's writing enough that I'm sure I'll read her next book.
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- Fred

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-29-2009
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio