Audrey Niffenegger | Swedish American Museum | Literary Events | Chicago Reader

Audrey Niffenegger Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Wed., Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m. 2009

Niffenegger reads from her new novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. Tickets available with preordered book purchase from Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299. One of the main characters in Audrey Niffenegger's lushly atmospheric new novel, Her Fearful Symmetry (Scribner), is already dead. London book dealer Elspeth Noblin has left most of her worldly possessions, including a flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery (where Niffenegger, who divides her time between Chicago and London, sometimes serves as a tour guide), to her 20-year-old American nieces--mirror-image twins Julia and Valentina Poole. That's a little perplexing, since the twins never knew their aunt, who was herself the twin of their mother. And Elspeth's will has some curious stipulations: the Poole girls can't sell the flat unless they live in it until they turn 21, and their parents must never set foot inside. As you might guess, there's a deep, dark secret involved. Extroverted, daring Julia and frail, reticent Valentina explore issues of identity, independence, and maturity as well as London, while ghostly Elspeth remains in the flat working on her haunting skills, trying to communicate with the girls and her lover Robert, who lives one floor below. Supporting characters like the Little Kitten of Death and Martin, an OCD-afflicted translator and cruciverbalist, make Niffenegger's romantic, supernatural tale a very absorbing read. And that deep, dark secret? Wow. --Jerome Ludwig

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