When Elspeth Noblin dies she leaves her beautiful flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina Poole, on the condition that their mother is never allowed to cross the threshold. But until the solicitor's letter falls through the door of their suburban American home, either Julia nor Valentina knew their aunt existed. The twins hope that in London their own, separate, lives can finally begin but they have no idea that they've been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt's mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them and works in the cemetery itself.
As the twins unravel the secrets of their aunt, who doesn't seem quite ready to leave her flat, even after death, Niffenegger weaves together a delicious and deadly ghost story about love, loss and identity.
Niffenegger follows up her spectacular The Time Traveler's Wife with a beautifully written if incoherent ghost story. When Elspeth Noblin dies, she leaves everything to the 20-year-old American twin daughters of her own long-estranged twin, Edie. Valentina and Julia, as enmeshed as Elspeth and Edie once were, move into Elspeth's London flat bordering Highgate Cemetery in a building occupied by Elspeth's lover, Robert, and the novel's most interesting character, Martin, whose wife is long suffering due to his crushing and beautifully portrayed OCD. The girls are pallid and incurious; they wander around London and spend time with Robert and Martin and Elspeth's ghost. Valentina's developing relationship with Robert arouses mild jealousy, and when Valentina pursues her interest in fashion design, Julia disapproves, which leads Valentina and Elspeth to concoct an extreme plan to allow Valentina to lead her own life. The plan, unsurprisingly, goes awry, followed by weakly foreshadowed and confusing twists that take the plot from dull to silly. While Niffenegger's gifted prose and past success will garner readers, the story is a disappointment.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Quirky and different, I loved this book.
I lived there with them
The book started so simply,and took many eloquent twists and turns. I'm not a twin, but felt I started to understand them. I'm not a believer in ghosts but felt I could conceive their reality. I'm not a writer - although wish I was; and some semblance of truth lies for me in the tale of compressed personality.
I found sensitivities in all of them, and that made the book heartwarming and captivating. And of all, you captured my London. Born at the Whittington, I lived as a child in the middle, then upper flat of an old house nearby. Many years ago now, but the descriptions of house and the grey buildings and surprising peaceful spots brought a wealth of charm. I'm sure that feeling would not need the reader to live there to empathise with the City.
And next time I'm there, I'm going to visit the Cemetery. I can't believe I've never been. Does that make me a welcome or unwelcome tourist...?
Thanks, Audrey - a fabulous tale.
Intriguing and mysterious
Difficult to get into, but worth persevering. Very strange and beautiful story. Twists in a way I didn't expect. Really enjoyed it in the end.