I just read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (of The Time Traveler’s Wife fame). Well she certainly picked an ideal time to come out with a new book, what with the TTTW movie out and all. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from HFS, but what I got was a classic American Gothic, which is of course set in England. I’m not the best for defining things, but generally, a gothic tale involves rolling estates that may or may not be haunted, characters who may or may not be what they seem, familial anxt, usually involving sisters, and twins (the more sets the better). And Niffenegger’s book has all of that, so the tone (I’d say impending doom) of the book is set right away, and gets carried rather effectively throughout. We have ghosts and an old apartment building overlooking an historic cemetery (rolling estate). The story is about twin sisters who inherit their aunt’s (mother’s twin) apartment in England. Little do they know in the beginning that the aunt is still haunting the apartment, unable to leave. The girls meet their aunt’s boyfriend and the plot thickens. Throw in a perfectly adorable white kitten, a neighbor with obsessive compulsive disorder, and my above mentioned tone of impending doom, and you get a haunting tale. As with all gothics, or at least the ones I’ve read, there are some slow parts, that I would have to say are intentional. They’re meant to get your guard down, relax in the moment before something truly creepy happens. Now I’m not talking 21st century sliced up bodies and blood everywhere creepy, I’m talking the psychological kind. The kind that Edgar Allen Poe is famous for, and the kind that innumerable authors have tried to emulate ever since. It’s a tale that propels you forward, albeit slowly at times, and keeps you thinking, no, she wouldn’t do that, she can’t, this is all going to work out. So yes, it’s different than The Time Traveler’s Wife, but of the same caliber. Granted, I liked TTTW more, but I’m a softy for time travel, as mentioned in my previous post.
Looking for more gothic tales of creepy estates and creepier twins? Check out:
The Thirteenth Tale by Dian Setterfield
The Sister by Poppy Adams