When Elspeth Noblin dies she leaves her London apartment to her American twin nieces, Julia and Valentina Poole. It all comes as a bit of a shock to the two girls. Julia and Valentina didn't know they had an aunt in London, and are amazed by the condition in the will stating that their mother, Elspeth's twin, and father should never be allowed to set foot in the apartment. And neither of their parents is prepared to give an explanation for that condition.
Julia and Valentina are not so much identical twins, but rather exact copies of each other. For the 21 years of their lives so far they have done everything together, and never really considered the idea of having separate lives. With the robust and daring Julia taking charge of their lives, and the weaker Valentina apparently happy to follow along, their future appears as connected as their past.
But, going to London might just give them an opportunity to start having lives of their own, something Valentina is increasingly yearning for.
In London, in the apartment overlooking Highgate Cemetary, they find themselves in a strange new world.
In the apartment above them lives Martin, an obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who has recently been left by his wife, Marijke. The floor below the girls is occupied by Robert, the younger former lover of their aunt who works in the cemetery and can't seem to face a future without Elspeth.
And it soon emerges that Elspeth, dead as she may be, hasn't quite left her apartment and has ideas and plans of her own.
As slowly the secrets of Elspeth and her twin sister's past emerge, the future starts to look ever darker. While love might save the day, obsession is bound to destroy it.
This was a fascinating story. It is told very slowly and for a long time it seemed as if there wasn't a whole lot happening or going to happen. But almost without the reader noticing it the story gets darker, the surroundings more oppressive and the chances of a happy ending ever smaller.
A story about obsession, secrets, selfishness and their concequences. Definitely not a happy story, but one that screams the warning: be careful what you wish for.
Yes, it was an intriguing story, very well written and a book that was easy to read. But, it was not a nice story and I didn't enjoy the experience as much as I did when I read The Time Traveller's Wife. Whereas that last book was a love story with a twist, there really wasn't a lot of love in this book.
One thing I did really enjoy though, and it came as a unexpected surprise. Martin's absent wife, Marijke, is Dutch, and some Dutch sentences, lullabies and thoughts made it into the story. I always enjoy reconnecting with my mother tongue.