Thursday, October 14, 2010
Published September 2009 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Regal Literary
Julia and Valentina are "mirror-image" identical twins, jobless college-dropouts. Julia, in particular, seems perfectly content to spend the rest of her life living in the suburbs with her mother and father and Valentina seems unwilling to do anything contradicts Julia.
Across the ocean, in London, their Aunt Elspeth, and aunt they have never seen, has died. The twins only learn of her existence when they receive a letter from Elspeth's barrister advising them that they have inherited her flat adjacent to Highgate cemetary. The cause of the split between Elspeth and the twin's mother, Edie (also identical twins) seems to be the result of Edie stealing husband Jack from then fiancee, Elspeth.There are just two conditions. The twins must live in the flat for one year before they can sell it and their parents cannot step foot in it.
The twins head off to London. The building the flat is in borders Highgate Cemetery and is also home to Robert, who is writing a book on the cemetery and was Elspeth's lover, and Martin, whose obsessive compulsive disorder is so extreme that his long-suffering wife has left him. Robert is immediately taken by Valentina's resemblance to Elspeth and Julia soon befriends Martin. Valentina becomes determined to break away from Julia and begin to live her own life and soon finds that she has an unlikely ally--her aunt's ghost. Elspeth has spent months learning to control her spirit self but the question becomes why. What exactly is it that Elspeth wants?
I may be the only person who has yet to read "The TIme Traveler's Wife," Niffenegger's debut novel for anyone else out there who has yet to read the book. It is so beloved that it would be almost impossible for this book to live up to that one. And it didn't for some readers. I knew I was going into this book with much more realistic expectations. Unfortunately, I was no less disappointed.
The premise of the book certainly intrigued me and I liked the way Niffenegger explored the idea of "death" in so many forms. Niffenegger's writing is evocative and atmospheric--there is a sense of gloom that appropriate pervades the book. Martin was by far my favorite character. His disease was so well written and his circumstances so sad.
That's also part of the problem with the book. I really felt like I should care at least as much about what happened to Valentina and Julia. The way Elspeth helped Valentina escape Julia would have had a far greater impact. And that truth behind what happened between Elspeth and Edie? I really didn't care by the time I got to it, although it was surprising. One reviewer called the book "bewitching" but I'm more inclined to agree with the reviewer that said the plot went from "dull to silly."
Now I'm left with the question, do I bother with "The Time Traveler's Wife?"