This is going to be a short review, almost by necessity; there is very little that I can say without delving into spoilers. Her Fearful Symmetry is the second novel by Audrey Niffenegger; her first was The Time-Traveler’s Wife. It centers around twins, Julia and Valentina, who inherit their aunt’s flat in London under the conditions that they live there for a year before selling it, and that their parents never enter it.
It’s hard for me to imagine an author writing two more different books than The Time-Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry. I enjoyed both of them, almost equally, although of course for different reasons. Her Fearful Symmetry was unique to me in that it has a distinctly Victorian Gothic feel, but it is set entirely in the present. The setting has a lot to do with that – the flat that the twins inherit borders London’s Highgate Cemetery. It took nearly 150 pages before I was invested in the plot, although I was intrigued from the beginning. The plot is very character-driven, and the characters are complex enough for that to work well. The narration is third-person omniscient, with enough of each character’s thoughts included to drive their motivations. It is extremely well-crafted and enjoyable; I highly recommend it (although I will say that I strongly dislike the title). For comparison, the feel of it reminded me quite a bit of The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Satterfield, although there are minimal plot and character similarities.
As an aside, for my fellow “Doctor Who” fans: The Time-Traveler’s Wife was one of Steven Moffat’s inspiration for the second-series (since the reboot) episode “The Girl in the Fireplace.” There is an acknowledgement of that within the story of Her Fearful Symmetry.