Edie and Elspeth were twins, but something tore them apart. Edie moved to America, while Elspeth stayed in London. Edie ended up having twins of her own – Julia and Valentina. And when Elspeth dies, it’s Julia and Valentina she leaves her flat to – with the stipulation that they must live there for a year before they sell it, and their parents are not allowed to set foot there.
And so Julia and Valentina, who have never left the United States, find themselves in their flat in London, which backs onto Highgate Cemetery, where a number of notable Victorians (as well as their aunt) are buried. The girls have always done everything together – but this a new world, with neighbors like Robert, who does tours of the cemetery, and was Elspeth’s lover, and Martin, who composes crossword puzzles, but has such crippling OCD that he never leaves his flat.
I really liked Niffenegger’s previous book The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was a very much a slow burn, where bits and pieces of the story dribble in until you finally have the full picture. This book was very much like that, and there were parts I very much enjoyed, like the atmosphere in that flats, and the neighboring cemetery. And I liked Julia’s interactions with Martin – whose wife has just left him because she can no longer live the way he forces them to. He has an open invitation to join her in Amsterdam, if he can only leave the flat.
What I didn’t like was the end. I won’t go into it, because it makes no sense without the build up, but it was not the way that story should have ended, and it didn’t even really end. I found myself very grumpy at the end of it.