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Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger


While I would like to think of myself as quite a quick reader, it is very rare that I am able to devour an entire novel in one sitting. However, every now and then a story comes along that I cannot stop reading, and, before I know it, I’ve turned the final page. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger is one such novel.

Largely thought of as a ghost story, it centres around the recent passing of Elspeth, and her journey coming to terms with existing in her spiritual form, trapped inside the house she lived in on earth. Having left her home to her estranged twin nieces in her will, she is able to observe them at long last when they move over from America to take up residence in their new property in England.

As Elspeth works just as hard to communicate with the living as her loved ones do to reach out to her, the tale takes several unexpected twists and turns. The characters developed in ways I didn’t expect, which was generally very pleasant. Although I wasn’t particularly fond of the young twins, I did feel that their own part of the story was satisfyingly concluded.

As far as ghost stories go, this one wasn’t scary, and nor do I feel it should be. Instead, it offered up some interesting thoughts on the concept of life after death, and what happens to the spirit after passing. It also offers a fascinating look at the retaining of human nature and our own emotions that are carried over after death. Set partly in Highgate Cemetery though, it does retain some of that traditional Gothic expectation that comes with many stories of a similar nature.

Her Fearful Symmetry was a very thought-provoking, surprising read. Enjoying it in one sitting allowed me to become fully immersed in the story, and, if you’re into innovative and slightly dark approaches to tales of spiritual communication, then this one is definitely worth looking out for.

By Amy McLean

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