Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers – normal, at least, for identical “mirror” twins who have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when they receive notice that an aunt whom they didn’t know existed has died and left them her amazing flat in a building by Highgate Cemetery in London. They feel that at last their own lives can begin... but have no idea that they’ve been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the OCD-suffering crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt’s mysterious and elusive lover who lives below, and to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the mother of the girls – her own twin – and who can’t even seem to quite leave her flat....
I still haven't read The Time Traveler's Wife by Niffenegger so I went into this book not really knowing what to expect from the author. What I found was not only a ghost story, but the result of keeping secrets buried for a lifetime between twin sisters who gave up on their relationship years ago. This book was full of beautiful, descriptive writing of London and gave you a vivid glimpse into the Highgate Cemetary.
Elspeth has lived her entire life in a flat next to the Highgate Cemetary in London, where her deceased family rests. When Elspeth dies of cancer within the first few pages of the book, her spirit finds its way back to her flat and cannot seem to leave that area. In her will, Elspeth left all of her belongings to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina, with the condition that they live together in her flat for at least a year with the stipulation that their parents must never set foot on the premises. It is definitely curious as to why Elspeth would leave such a valuable lot to a couple of girls that she has never known and with such strict stipulations.
Julia and Valentina have lived their lives in Illinois with their parents, Edie and Jack. Edie is Elspeth's twin but since they became estranged many years before, they have hardly had any contact since she left London years ago. Edie's twin daughters have done everything in their lives together, including attending the same college. If college life wasn't working out for one of them, both of the girls would return home. So it isn't a surprise when they decide that they will head to London to live in Elspeth's flat together.
The twins find life in London exciting as they realize they can do basically anything that they wish since Elspeth left them plenty of money for expenses. Although they do everything together you start to get the sense that both want to branch out and explore their own personal interests and longings. Julia wants to sit back and enjoy life while Valentina wants to continue her education. With both girls wanting to pursue different endeavors that means that they would have to continue their life journey separately, and neither one is quite sure of taking this drastic action.
After the twins are living in the flat for awhile, Elspeth finds a way to communicate with them. They find comfort in getting a chance to know the aunt that they never had a chance to know before. I enjoyed this part of the book because I do believe that there is a very powerful spiritual realm out there. While certain events occurred that made the occurrences more realistic, the book seemed to take a turn that really was a bit too far out there for me. It's not that I didn't like where it was going, but maybe just unsure of it (if that makes sense).
I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters that were in this novel. Elspeth's boyfriend Robert happened to live in the flat below the twins and Valentina was able to befriend him in a way that helped him recover from losing his love. Martin lived in a flat upstairs from the girls and after his wife left him he seemed to sink deeper into his OCD disorder. Julia became a confidant to Martin and eventually helps him to get his life back on track. I think it was interesting how the girls reached out to others and helped them find a piece of themselves that they didn't know existed-life without their twin by their side constantly.
The writing in this book flowed so nicely and I appreciated the vivid descriptions that were provided of both London and the Highgate Cemetary. If you enjoy a good ghost story without being scared to death then you will probably enjoy this book. Neffenegger is obviously a very talented author and I do plan on reading The Time Traveler's Wife yet, even though I have already seen the movie.
Disclosure: This book was provided to me from Amanda at Regal-Literary in exchange for an honest review.