Friday, November 13, 2009

Wondering if this is a must read book?

So a few days ago I finished the latest novel by the author of The Time Traveler's Wife. I blogged about the story recently as a book I wanted to live in, you can read that post here. Her Fearful Symmetry is an unusual read and I've been trying to pigeon hole it as a book I either liked or disliked and I can't even seem to decide on that. I loved the locations in the book, London, Highgate Cemetery and the North Shore of Chicago but I'm not really satisfied with the book's ending. Regardless I will try and give a review but in a slightly odd way.

Two creepy identical twin sisters

move to London

after their aunt whom they've never met, the identical twin sister of their mother, dies of cancer and

leaves them her flat

overlooking Highgate Cemetery.

From there it gets even odder. The residents of the building where the twins move include a man with extreme obsessive compulsive disorder, his fed up wife and a man who was the lover of the twin's dead aunt. Oh and then there are the characters in Highgate Cemetery, mostly volunteers who keep the cemetery running and give tourists tours. But it's the strange relationship between the twins that fuels this book. They are mirror image identical twins, so where one has a mole the other twin will have it on the opposite side of the face. They are also rather opposite in personality, Julia is more outgoing and bossy but with no desire to do anything with her life other than order her twin Valentina around. Valentina is the more reserved twin who dreams of leaving the grip of her sister to go to college, become a fashion designer, marry and have children.

This strange tale includes the usual dark family secrets and the unusual such as odd requests from the recently departed. As I got farther into the book I really wanted to find someone to talk about the book with as the story started to veer off into Gothic Mary Shelley style monster stories. The author does a good job of leading up to the main twist in the story, towards the end I just couldn't put the book down. But she really has too many stories going on in the book. The OCD neighbor became one of my favorite characters but he appears tossed into the life of the twins to give one of them something to do. It's also rather a slow read until things start getting paranormal and then it ends. Hmmmm.

Here is what I like. I appreciate an author who doesn't handle death in the usual fashion. The book revolves around death and the twins inability to live. They have no lives and it's not until death literally lives with them that they start to live. Odd huh. And strangely compelling. And definitely thought provoking. And OK, a must read. See I knew I just needed to talk it over. Thanks for listening. Below is an image I think explains the book quite nicely.

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