I loved Audrey Niffenegger’s first novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife. It is one of the most profound love stories I’ve ever read, and I remember loaning my copy to at least five friends afterwards. So when Her Fearful Symmetry came out, I started on it right away.

It’s a story of twin sisters who move to London after the death of an unknown aunt who’s left them money and a flat, and of the inhabitants of this flat’s building that sits next to a cemetery. As you might now guess, death figures prominently in the novel. The story seems to be set in present day, but the narrative and the characters have an ethereal, removed quality that at the same time suggests a past century. This fits comfortably with the tale’s resemblance to Victorian Gothic novels. It has all the elements: Horror, romance, the supernatural, and death all intertwine.

I recommend the book, but not because it follows in Traveler’s footsteps. The tale itself isn’t as engrossing as Niffenegger’s first novel, where you feel compelled to keep reading. I think Her Fearlful Symmetry’s strength is in its aesthetics: the picture it paints of a spiritually active world, the themes of death and darkness. I enjoyed it because I felt transported to an intriguing new time and place.

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth StroutYet more acclaim for Robert Bolano‘s 2666.

It made the National Book Critics Circle‘s list of finalists for its 2008 awards.

The other titles rounding out the finalists in the fiction category are Marilynne Robinson‘s Home; Aleksandar Hemon‘s The Lazarus Project; M. Glenn Taylor‘s The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart; and Elizabeth Strout‘s Olive Kitteridge.

Noticeably absent is Toni Morrison‘s A Mercy, which received lots of buzz last year — including a spot on both The New York Times‘ and The Washington Post‘s lists of top 10 books for 2008.

Click here for the rest of the finalists in the categories of poetry, criticism, biography, autobiography, and nonfiction.