Her Fearful Symmetry is Audrey Niffenger’s sophomore novel, following her popular take on the science fiction time travel trope, The Time Traveler’s Wife. To my mind, the two novels could not be more different–and unfortunately, Her Fearful Symmetry suffers for it. While both nicely and neatly integrate the supernatural, there is something decidedly unnatural about the choices her characters make.
Niffenegger’s attempt at a gothic novel concerns two sets of twins: Edie and Elsbeth, who have not spoken or seen one another in over a decade, and Edie’s children, Julia and Valentina. After Elsbeth’s death (not a spoiler, as it happens within the first few pages!), Edie and the twins discover that she has left her London flat to Julia and Valentina, with a few stipulations–the first being that they have to live there for a year before selling it, and the second that Edie and her husband Jack can never set foot inside. With that, Her Fearful Symmetry is off and running. We follow Julia and Valentina as they attempt to navigate a new country and culture, and not least of all their own identities, as twins and as separate individuals. Oh, and did I mention that Elsbeth’s flat is haunted, by Elsbeth herself? The reader is treated to Elsbeth’s slow realization of her death and her increasing powers as a spirit.