What We're Reading

By Louisa Emery on August 24, 2010 2:06 PM |

Audrey Niffenegger, Her Fearful Symmetry
Vintage, £7.99

If you were hoping for weepy romance akin to Time Traveller's Wife, then think again, Niffenegger has a much more sinister story to tell with her new book.

If The Time Traveller's Wife is a fairy tale, then the author's latest novel is very much a nightmare.

Once again Niffenegger is asking her readers to suspend disbelief, but this time with a macabre sense of menace.

American twins Julia and Valentina Poole are secure in their cosseted existence until their aunt dies and leaves them her flat in North London.

The girls, who's lifestyle is steadily suffocating Valentina, must leave their bubble and spend a year alone in Aunt Elspeth's property. Unbeknownst to them, she hasn't left.

Highgate Cemetery provides the perfect backdrop to a 21st century ghost story that owes much to Victoriana.

Revisiting the themes of identity and desire, Niffenegger's fertile imagination crosses over into the grotesque.

A tight cast of borderline caricatures includes an obsessive compulsive who fascinates Julia and Elspeth's tortured young lover who embarks upon an amorous alliance with Valentina.

The story pales in comparison to Niffenegger's bestseller, dragging in parts and edging towards the ridiculous. On the upside, there is very little danger of it being adapted into a nauseating movie.

The plot is as transparent as Marley's ghost but just when you think you have the story sussed, Niffenegger places a final icy hand over your heart.