Tag Archives: Highgate Cemetery

A Great Book Giveaway

This site picked Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger as the best book released in the year 2009.   Now, thanks to Regal Literary, we are happy to celebrate the release of this novel in trade paperback form by giving away a free copy!

How much, exactly, did we love Her Fearful Symmetry?   Well, we published not one or two but three separate reviews of the dramatic ghost story (September 23, 2009; September 28, 2009; November 7, 2009).   Here is a link to the first of the three reviews (“What Comes After”) that we posted:


So, how can you win your own copy?   It’s simple, just post a comment here or send an e-mail with your name and an e-mail address to: Josephsreviews@gmail.com .   This will count as a first entry.   For a second entry, tell me why stories about ghosts and/or twins are so very interesting (at least I find them so).   There are no right or wrong answers, just tell me what you think.   You have until midnight PST on Friday, September 10, 2010 to submit your entry(s).

The winner, as drawn by Munchy the cat, will be notified via e-mail and will have 72 hours to provide a residential mailing address in the United States.   The winner’s copy of Her Fearful Symmetry will be shipped directly to her/him by Regal Literary.   The book will not be sent to a business address or a P.O. box.  This is it for the simple rules.

Good luck and good reading!



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The Best Book of 2009

It really was not close, although Everything Matters!: A Novel by Ron Currie, Jr. is a very, very good runner-up.   Instead we have no choice but to choose Audrey Niffenegger’s follow-up to The Time Traveler’s Wife.   Yes, Her Fearful Symmetry is this site’s choice as the very best book published in 2009.

How good was it?   Well, we felt we needed to post three separate reviews to do the book justice.   Even then we likely fell short.   Our reviews were posted here on September 23, 2009 (6 days before the book’s release); September 28, 2009; and on November 7, 2009.   To revisit these reviews type the following search terms into the Search It! box on the right:  her fearful symmetry; take two…; what comes after.  

We can only hope that Ms. Niffenegger is now working on a third novel for release in 2011.   We will wait, anxiously – helplessly hoping.

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Her Fearful Symmetry

her fearful kindle

Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger (Scribner, $26.99, 416 pages)

A simple ghost story, that’s what Her Fearful Symmetry is.   It’s the story of a woman, a twin, who dies and leaves her home and possessions in London to the twin daughters of her estranged sister.   The late Elspeth’s flat is located next to the dramatic Highgate Cemetery, which, itself, serves as a major character in this novel.   Based on this summary, a reader would not expect this to be a significant work.   The reader would be wrong, because this ghost story was written by Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife), one of the best writers of our time.

Niffenegger creates a small, magical world where every thought, every word, every action of the main characters has significance.   Reading Symmetry is like watching a film shown in slow motion; her style is so arresting that it’s a challenge to look away.   What Sacramento’s Joan Didion is to non-fiction writing, Niffenegger is to the world of fiction.   Both are masters of icy realism, and it hardly matters what it is they write about.

Niffenegger may not convince you to believe in ghosts or time travel, but you will believe in her writing talents.   A perfect gift for a future novelist.   Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.


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Coming Up Next…

A guest – and second – review of Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife).Her Fearful Symmetry 5

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What Comes After

Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger

If anyone else had written this story, I’d be tempted to say there’s not much to it.   Elspeth Noblin, knowing that she will soon die of cancer, leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces from the U.S., Julia and Valentina.   These are the daughters of Elspeth’s estranged sister.   Why does Elspeth desire to be united after death with the nieces she’s never seen?   What will they learn by living in Elspeth’s flat, wearing her clothes, surrounded by her former lover and friends?   Why is the flat in question located next to London’s Highgate Cemetery?   And why did Julia and Valentina’s mother separate herself from Elspeth?Her Fearful Symmetry 5

All of these questions are answered in due time in Symmetry’s 416 pages.   But this is not a fast read.   It is a work of slow, intricate and fascinating pace written by Audrey Niffenegger.   Yes, she is the woman who wrote the mega-selling novel The Time Traveler’s Wife.   In her own real life Niffenegger is a guide at Highgate Cemetery in London, while also living in Chicago.   (She lives in the worlds she writes about.)

I will not say more about the plot except to say that there is a ghost involved – actually three of them, before the puzzle is solved.   The real pleasure here is in the telling…   Niffenegger shows once again that she’s at the top of her game, on top of her craft.   As she delicately tells her story, we wait almost breathlessly for the next short chapter, the next development, the next conversation, the next thought from one of her characters.

Some writers write big, building up large stages and filling up every space.   Niffenegger seems to write in between spaces, in the ghostly void between life and death, now and the past, hopes and regrets.   It may be natural, then, that she wrote about time travel in the context of an everlasting love story.   Now she writes of a family’s hopes, loves and disappointments; matters which cannot be limited by the boundaries of life and death.

If this is not an absolute masterpiece, it is likely to be as close to one as we’ll be privileged to see this year (and maybe the next).

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.


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Coming Up Next…

A review of Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife.Her Fearful Symmetry

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