Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger (2 stars)

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger

Like her debut novel The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger’s new offering requests from her readers some suspension of disbelief. When bookseller Elspeth dies, she leaves her plush Highgate flat to her American twin nieces, the daughters of her own twin sister, before returning to haunt both them and her desolate partner. Even if you do buy into the book’s ghostly conceit, the author’s shallow characterisation means that it’s hard to be convinced by its increasingly absurd storyline, though a sub-plot about a neighbour with crippling OCD is affecting.

Where Niffenegger succeeds is in her tumultuously realistic mapping out of London, reducing the sprawling city to a clutch of tube stations, landmarks and popular brand names while still conveying some sense of its deep history. The depiction of Highgate Cemetery and its inhabitants is haunting too, and meticulously researched, a triumph cheapened only by the ridiculous twists and turns of the novel’s ending.

(Jonathan Cape)

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