Chapters 1-2 Summary

The novel opens with the death of Elspeth in a hospital. Her lover, Robert, happens to be away from her bedside when she passes. He went down the hall to get himself some tea. As she dies, she thinks of a conversation she had with Robert not too long ago. They had been walking by the river, and he remarked that they should have had children. When Robert returns to Elspeth’s room, he does not initially realize that she is dead. She is turned facing the door with open eyes. Once he realizes what has happened, Robert closes the door and gently curls up beside Elspeth’s frail body. Elspeth’s spirit sees all this happen while floating above them on the ceiling of the hospital room. It is early dawn, and the city is just beginning to stir. Robert holds onto Elspeth for as long as he can, knowing that someone will soon come to take her away.

Elspeth’s twin sister, Edie, lives in the United States. She regularly receives letters from Elspeth at a private post office box that only she knows about. Her husband, Jack, grows suspicious of the letters, particularly when he discovers a lighter in Edie’s car. Edie doesn’t smoke; she uses the lighter to burn up Elspeth’s letters after she reads them. Finally, Jack hires a private detective to follow Edie and find out more about the letters. Edie had spotted the detective early on and is annoyed by his presence. When Edie receives her latest letter, she heads down to the beach to read it, and naturally, the P.I. follows her. The letter is brief: in it, Elspeth confirms her impending death. She tells Edie she won’t inherit anything because Edie has Elspeth’s life. She also informs Edie that she has left everything to Edie’s daughters, who are also twins. Edie takes the letter home and lets Jack read it. He is both surprised and relieved about the letter’s author. He thought Edie and Elspeth didn’t speak, but is glad the letter is not from a lover of some kind. After he reads the letter, Edie curls up with Jack in bed in a thoughtful silence. Edie is consumed with a sense of loss, feeling unprepared for Elspeth’s departure, despite their long separation. Suddenly, Edie’s twins, Valentina and Julia, arrive home from school. Hearing them from the next room, Edie immediately goes to the bathroom to pull herself together. She makes it very clear to Jack that he is not to tell the girls about their aunt’s death. She then goes to greet the twins and begins to make plans for dinner, keeping her cool.

Chapter 3 Summary

The day of Elspeth’s funeral, Robert is tired and empty. The mourners all go to Highgate Cemetery for the graveside service. Robert works at Highgate; the cemetery is an important historic site and people regularly request tours. Today, however, the cemetery and all the people with whom Robert works seem different. Everything feels strange since he is here as a mourner, not an employee. Robert is accompanied by Martin and Marijke, a couple who live in the same apartment building as Robert and Elspeth. Martin and Marijke are at a loss for words and do not know how to comfort Robert. As Robert and the other pallbearers carry Elspeth’s coffin from the hearse to the mausoleum, he reflects on the illness that took Elspeth’s life at the young age of forty-four. He can picture all of the specifics of her body, but now imagines them transformed by illness. At the end, Elspeth had lost a considerable amount of weight, and her body was covered with scars and sores; her hair had fallen out from the ultimately unsuccessful treatments. Robert imagines Elspeth’s body beginning to decompose in the casket. He is struck with mixed emotions when he thinks of how he and Elspeth used to make love; the same body that once aroused him now fills him with feelings of disgust.

The pallbearers struggle to get the heavy, lead-lined casket into the small family mausoleum. Once the service is done, Robert cannot seem to bring himself to leave. Jessica Bates, his elderly boss, offers her sympathies to Robert and gently encourages him to go. During the internment service, Robert has difficulty concentrating and focuses on the slushy rain and snow falling around the mourners. He has a moment of panic as he realizes he might forget things about Elspeth; he realizes the significance of the fact that she now lives in his memory. As the mourners depart, Robert walks with Marijke and Martin back to the apartment building. The walk back is awkward and silent. When they reach the building, Marijke and Martin struggle to find the right thing to say to Robert. Martin simply offers his condolences, and he and Marijke head off to their apartment. Robert goes into his apartment but feels unsure where to go. After some deliberation, he leaves his apartment and goes to Elspeth’s. He walks through her flat to the bedroom. He curls up on her bed and goes to sleep.

Chapter 4 Summary

Not long after the funeral, Marijke decides to leave Martin. Marijke plans her departure very carefully, keeping in mind Martin’s rituals. Martin suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and his rituals and compulsions have become increasingly complex and time-consuming. One of his rituals is to take excessive and extended showers, so Marijke takes the opportunity to make her exit. She packs her bags and looks for a place to leave her Dear John letter. She looks around for the right spot so that he’ll be sure to find the letter. It occurs to her that his OCD will make him forever associate negative feelings with whatever place she chooses. Therefore, she decides to hang the letter from the ceiling by a string, to avoid the potential for negative associations. As she is about to leave, Robert calls to her from the bathroom. He has been talking to himself for much of the time he showered, but now speaks to Marijke. He asks her to take a letter he wrote to Theo, their son, and drop it in the mail. Marijke agrees to mail the letter, but feels pangs of sadness and guilt as she prepares to leave. Finally, she takes the letter, leaves the apartment, and meets the taxi driver waiting for her on the street outside. She asks him to take her to Heathrow airport to catch her flight to Amsterdam.

As Marijke makes her way out of the country, Martin finishes his long shower and begins his complicated dressing ritual. Martin thinks of his various compulsions and how they have affected his life. Many of Martin's rituals involve numbers and counting, but sometimes they harm Martin. For example, his need for symmetry when he shaves sometimes leads him to cut himself because he must use the same number of shaves on each side of his face. Robert sits down to breakfast and reviews the crossword puzzles in the paper. Robert writes crosswords for a living and meticulously checks his work. Eventually, Robert discovers Marijke’s letter hanging by a thread. As he reads it, he is filled with terror. Marijke explains that even though she loves him, she can no longer live within the confines of his rituals. She tells Robert that he has an illness and cites his refusal to see a doctor as one of the primary reasons for her leaving him. Martin is filled with terror at the thought of life without Marijke. As she travels in a train toward Amsterdam, Marijke wonders about Martin. She knows he must have found the letter, but notices that he hasn’t attempted to call her.

Chapter 5 Summary

Being back at work is odd for Robert. It is a few months after the funeral, and Robert is back to his usual duties. Jessica, his boss, has a particular knack for putting people’s talents and interests to use. Noting Robert’s historical bent, Jessica quickly put him to work guiding tours of the cemetery. On this particular day, he excuses himself from his colleagues to go to lunch. Instead, he crosses Highgate and goes to Elspeth’s mausoleum. He sits on the steps, rests his head against the door, and thinks of her. He reflects back on his helping her make her final arrangements.

Robert and Elspeth have known for some time that she is dying. They begin to go over the logistics of her estate, and she announces her plan to leave everything to her nieces, Julia and Valentina. She offers to leave her estate to Robert, but he informs her that he is doing well enough and does not need it. Still, Robert is surprised by Elspeth’s decision to leave her whole life to a pair of nieces she has neither met nor spoken to. Once again, Robert tries to get to the bottom of the bad relations between Elspeth and Edie. When he asks Elspeth why she hates Edie, she denies feeling this way. She explains that Edie did something terrible many years ago. Elspeth explains that she could never hate her sister because it would be like hating herself. Because they are identical, Elspeth sees herself and Edie as parts of the same person. Elspeth remarks that in pictures, the twins look a lot like Edie and Elspeth. Elspeth feels like the twins are half hers because she and Edie have the same DNA. Elspeth seems especially interested in the possibility that the twins will come to live in her flat. Robert again tries to get Elspeth to talk about the mysterious parts of her past, but Elspeth declines. She insists that all of her problems and secrets are from the time before she met Robert. At her request, Robert begins to rub her feet with lotion, one of the few things that offer Elspeth relief from the ravages of her illness.

Robert’s reverie ends, and as he sits in the cemetery, he is struck again by Elspeth’s absence. He realizes how much of his life was about sharing his ups and downs with Elspeth. Since he does not believe in an afterlife, all he can feel at the mausoleum is the silence. He bids Elspeth good-bye and slowly heads back to his office.

Chapter 6 Summary

Valentina and Julia, Edie’s twins, are often the first to wake up. It is winter, and they can hear the sounds of snow being cleared outside. Per their ritual, they snuggle up to watch their favorite television show all morning and have pancakes for breakfast. The twins are willowy, wan girls who have always been regarded by others as a bit strange. They aren’t identical twins in the traditional sense; rather, they are mirror images of each other. A beauty mark on one twin appears on the opposite side on the other, as if it were the reflection in a mirror. Valentina’s heart is even located on the right side of her body rather than her left. The twins have never been successful college students. Twenty years of age, they have dropped out of three different colleges for various reasons. When one leaves, the other soon follows. Their idle morning changes with the arrival of the mail. The twins converge on the stack on the floor and begin divvying up the correspondence they find. They are surprised to find a letter from Elspeth in the pile. They have (to their knowledge) never met Elspeth.

In the letter, Elspeth makes it clear that she is bequeathing all of her worldly belongings, most importantly, her flat, to the twins. She is vague about her decision to leave it to them instead of Edie, but insists that living in London would be a life-changing experience for them. She acknowledges the estrangement from her sister, but says that Edie will have to explain it if she chooses. She makes it clear that their inheritance has two stipulations: (1) that they live in the apartment for at least a year before selling it and (2) that Edie and Jack never enter the flat or look at its contents. Valentina feels some trepidation about the possibility of moving from the States to England, but Julia is thrilled at the thought of independence. As they are trying to sort through it, Jack and Edie enter, finally roused after a late-night party. They read the letter and both are shocked by the proposal. The twins try to get Edie to talk about her relationship with her sister, but she refuses. Edie shows them passports from their one and only trip to England, when they were four months old. That night, the twins continue to think over Elspeth’s offer, and Julia tries to assuage Valentina’s anxieties (even calling Valentina by a special term of endearment, Mouse). In their room, Edie and Jack are also ruminating about the inheritance. Edie seems reluctant to let them go, but Jack senses it could help the twins grow up. Edie, however, does not completely trust Elspeth’s motives.

Chapters 7-8 Summary

Martin’s life becomes even more restricted in Marijke’s absence. Martin’s agoraphobia has taken over every facet of his daily life; in addition to the hosts of rituals he enacts to deal with his compulsion, he had constructed a life that requires little to no venturing into the outside world. In the first weeks after Marijke’s departure, Martin subsists on meals Marijke had frozen for him before she left. In addition, Martin begins to pore over a list of websites she provided. Some of them deliver groceries; others, cleaning products; and some even provide clothing. The latter is particularly useful to Martin because his excessive washing often causes his clothing to wear out quickly. The one island of normalcy in his flat is his work desk. Martin makes a conscious effort not to involve his workspace in any rituals or other compulsive behavior. After Marijke leaves, however, Martin finds it increasingly difficult to abide by this rule. While Martin is quite happy with all that the Internet offers him, he still feels Marijke’s absence keenly and often pictures what she might be doing at that very moment in Amsterdam. Martin is shocked to discover that there is no mention of Marijke anywhere on the Internet. Despite a wide variety of search attempts, Marijke doesn’t exist online. Martin finds himself beginning to lose details about her, and hangs pictures of her around the flat in a vain attempt to keep her clearly rooted in his thoughts.

By late June, Robert is making little progress in dealing with his grief over Elspeth. He often visits the cemetery at night, sometimes at the graves of long-deceased cultural or historical figures. More often than not, however, he sits outside Elspeth’s mausoleum. He has done this for a while and uses it as a diversion from his insomnia and grief. For a while, the cemetery fence is missing a railing, which allows people to sneak in. One night, Robert spies three little children, two girls and a boy, playing silently among the graves. He later reports the broken railing and it is soon repaired. Robert almost misses the children and feels bad when he sees them outside the cemetery no longer able to get inside. At work the next day, Jessica notices his weariness and asks him whether he ever sleeps.

Chapters 9-10 Summary

In late July, on a Sunday afternoon, Robert goes to visit James and Jessica Bates. The cemetery happens to have plenty of tour guides on this particular day, so Robert and Jessica have been freed of their duties for the rest of the day. The ancient James watches as his grandchildren cavort and roughhouse on the lawn. Jessica is inside cooking lunch, so James inquires about the progress on Elspeth’s estate. Robert tells him that Edie initially seemed to want to contest the will, but has since accepted its inevitability. Jessica soon joins them and sets her grandchildren straight about their rambunctious behavior. She then joins James and notices Robert’s quietness and exhaustion. Robert unexpectedly asks the couple whether they believe in ghosts, and both are quite surprised. He explains that when he is in her apartment, there are often pockets of air that are significantly colder than the rest of the room. He also finds that objects tend to move around to other locations. Jessica is clearly a skeptic, but James acknowledges the possibility. James tells them of a ghost story from his childhood. His brother was scared by something in his room, for which James teased him relentlessly. When James slept in the room, he awoke to the shadows of trees; they were the ghosts because there were no trees near the house. 

Over the course of the first year after her death, Elspeth begins to learn the rules of being a ghost. One of the first things she notices is that she looks exactly as she did the day she died, excessively thin and mostly hairless. She is unable to see herself in the mirror and soon realizes that the experience of being a ghost is largely vicarious: she observes the experiences of others that she can no longer have. She sees Robert all the time when he comes to mope around her apartment. He unfortunately cannot hear her in return. She is also unable to leave the flat and can see the outside world only through windows. Slowly, Elspeth begins to learn how to move small objects. It requires intense focus and concentration, and Elspeth wonders whether she might be in some kind of Purgatory. Her endless confinement soon makes her stir-crazy. She can hear Robert’s flat below her but cannot go to it. She wonders why she is still around, vaguely haunting her own flat. She wishes for suicide, even though she is already dead.

Chapters 11-12 Summary

With the twins departing just after the New Year, Edie tries to get in some extra bonding time with Valentina. Just before Christmas, Valentina decides to make two identical violet dresses for herself and her sister. Edie helps Valentina apply the pattern and cut the fabric. They work in easy silence for a while as Valentina carefully sews the silk material with her sewing machine. As they work, Valentina confides in her mother that Julia had wanted the dresses to be pink. Edie tells Valentina that she should not let Julia tell her what to do all the time. Valentina then asks Edie whether she and Elspeth used to boss each other around. The subject of Valentina's aunt is precarious, and Edie quickly states that she and Elspeth had a...

(The entire section is 442 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary

On New Year’s Day, Robert is clearing out Elspeth’s most personal items from the apartment in preparation for the twins’ arrival the next day. Elspeth watches him carefully and stays close to him, always aware that he has no idea she is there. First, Robert clears the items from Elspeth’s business and loads them into a bin he has brought with him. He then heads to the bathroom and empties it of her toiletries. With each stop, Elspeth anticipates the next location and requests it. Robert follows methodically even though he cannot hear her; she marvels at his thoroughness and logic. Next, he heads to her closet and empties out some underwear and other personal clothing items. He finds one blouse and stops to smell it; it...

(The entire section is 454 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary

The twins arrive in England, standing out from the crowd at Heathrow Airport in their matching all-white outfits. Despite preparing for the move by consuming all kinds of British culture, the twins are still not prepared for the unfamiliarity of their new surroundings, especially Valentina. The take a taxi to their new address but initially have trouble finding the building; they finally realize they have to go down an alley to access the entrance. The driver deposits the girls’ copious luggage in the foyer and leaves. On the first floor, the girls find the door to Robert’s flat, marked with his surname, Fanshaw. They head up to the next floor and find the door marked Noblin; it is Elspeth’s flat. The twins enter the...

(The entire section is 422 words.)

Chapters 15-16 Summary

The day after their arrival, the twins go to see Elspeth’s solicitor, Xavier Roche. He explains the particulars of the estate, including the several million pounds left to them by Edie. They also review the rules about the flat they now occupy. While the twins worry that their parents aren’t allowed to visit, Roche clarifies that they are simply forbidden from entering the apartment. He attempts to assuage the girls’ concerns by noting how often people make unusual or unexplained requests in their wills. The twins attempt to find out why Elspeth made them her beneficiaries despite having no other contact with them. Roche may know more, but he gives only the vaguest of responses about Elspeth’s sense of duty to her family....

(The entire section is 464 words.)

Chapters 17-19 Summary

Robert isn’t sure why he refused to introduce himself to the twins. Every day (sometimes more than once), they would knock on his door to see whether he was in. No matter what he was doing, Robert froze and remained silent until they went away. He then would often watch them from his window as they headed out into the world. One day, he decides to follow them on their excursions. The first thing Robert notices is how much they stand out. People regularly gawk at them, but they don’t seem to mind the attention; they seem used to people finding them odd or intriguing. Robert soon realizes to his dismay that many of the twins' outings are to English landmarks and other tourist attractions. Naturally, these hold no interest for...

(The entire section is 433 words.)

Chapters 20-21 Summary

Valentina and Julia are curled up together, sleeping in much the same way they had when they were growing inside Edie. Julia is dreaming of her family at the beach when she and her sister were little; it starts raining, and they scramble to get to the car. Valentina interrupts this dream by waking up Julia. The water drops that she felt in her dream are real; the ceiling above them is leaking water, and they and their bed are soaked. Julia runs to get a pot to catch the water and tells Valentina she is going upstairs. Valentina wants to come, too, but Julia tells her she’ll need to empty out the pot soon. Julia heads upstairs and finds all kinds of papers stacked outside the flat. The door is open, and Julia carefully makes her...

(The entire section is 588 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary

The next day, Julia goes to Martin’s flat at four o’clock as planned. Valentina naturally felt too self-conscious to attend, so she remains downstairs. Martin lets Julia in and leads her to his kitchen, where he had prepared an elegant tea service. Martin is wearing a suit, and the tea is served in china; the fanciness of it amid the piles of boxes surprises Julia. As they make small talk, Julia continues to pepper the conversation with questions about his illness. Martin explains that he does translations and writes crosswords, both of which allow him to work from home. When Martin asks her what she does, Julia doesn’t have an answer. Martin notices that Julia frequently responds to questions using “we,” and Julia...

(The entire section is 428 words.)

Chapters 23-24 Summary

Elspeth watches as the twins do nothing. The twins laze around and watch a lot of television, which Elspeth finds disdainful. Tonight, the girls are curled up on the couch watching Doctor Who. Elspeth notes that their diet seems far from healthy; the girls mostly subsist on processed food and eat very few vegetables. Just as she is wishing they would change the channel, she suddenly sees David Tenant appear onscreen, playing the title character. Elspeth floats down from her perch above the girls and sits in front of the television. She laughs at herself for having a crush on an actor, especially since she is dead. At one point in the scene, David Tennant raises his hand. Elspeth places hers on the screen as if to touch...

(The entire section is 405 words.)

Chapter 25 Summary

It is still winter, and Julia and Valentina decide to go for a walk near Primrose Hill. Along the way, the two quiz each other on British expressions using a guide they found in a local bookshop. Julia is suddenly taken with the urge to dance and she begs Valentina to join her; however, after a minute, Valentina becomes winded and wheezy. It takes her several minutes to get her breath back. In the back of her mind, Julia regrets not having registered yet with the National Health Service. Valentina and Julia have been in the U.K. for a month and a half and they still haven’t gotten Valentina a doctor. Julia had promised her parents that she would take care of this immediately, but her lack of familiarity with England’s health...

(The entire section is 424 words.)

Chapter 26 Summary

After a good snow, the girls go out for a walk. Along the way, they see a white animal near the cemetery, which Valentina initially mistakes for an oversized squirrel. Upon closer examination, they see that it is a very dexterous cat. As the cat leaps and climbs with uncanny ability, the twins marvel at its “death-defying” feats. The girls quickly dub it the Little Kitten of Death. When they get back home, Valentina puts out a can of tuna and a dish of milk in an effort to attract the kitten. Julia is less enthusiastic about the prospect of a pet, but she tolerates Valentina’s efforts. Despite hours of monitoring, Valentina finds the food untouched and sees no signs of the kitten. Later that night, she and her sister wait in...

(The entire section is 411 words.)

Chapter 27 Summary

Jessica prepares to welcome another tour group with the assistance of Kate, an American volunteer. Jessica notices two girls, twins, and smiles at their matching outfits. She tells Robert he is going to take the group for a tour, but when he sees the twins, he freezes. Jessica gives the group the usual introduction about cemetery policies and the importance of both ticket sales and donations in keeping the cemetery kept up. When Jessica is collecting ticket fees, Robert tells her not to charge the twins because they are owners of one of the gravesites. Jessica reassesses the twins and begins to put the pieces together.

Robert feels extremely uneasy, but barrels through his introductions. He avoids eye contact with the...

(The entire section is 409 words.)

Chapters 28-29 Summary

Valentina finds a newfound freedom because the ghost leaves her alone and the mysterious person following them around the city stops doing so. As a result, she feels far more eager to go out into the world. On one outing, she tells Julia that she wants to take some fashion design courses. She idolizes Alexander McQueen, who also attended the school she wants to attend. Julia is less than supportive and wants to know how she fits into this plan. For the first time, it occurs to Valentina that she doesn’t care and doesn’t have to. She and Julia do not have to do everything together. To be optimistic, Valentina suggests that Julia become her manager, but the elder sister is less than enthused about the prospect. On the way home,...

(The entire section is 449 words.)

Chapter 30 Summary

On Marijke’s birthday, she receives a package from Martin. She isn’t surprised, as he had always made a big deal out of her birthday. The package she receives is covered in a tape—a sign of Martin’s handiwork. She opens the package and finds several things: a poem from centuries past about undying love, a pair of gloves, a pair of earrings, and a crossword puzzle. As usual, Martin had designed the crossword puzzle especially for her, as he often did on the birthdays of friends and loved ones. He has also included another section of the paper with the solution to the puzzle. Marijke laughs at their inside joke: she has never been able to successfully complete a crossword puzzle and Martin knows it. The earrings aren’t new,...

(The entire section is 449 words.)

Chapters 31-32 Summary

Robert knows he cannot continue to hide from the twins. With the weather changing and becoming more pleasant, he decides it would be an ideal day for a picnic. He goes upstairs, knocks on the twins’ door, and invites them to picnic with him in Postman’s Park. The girls are unfamiliar with the area and surprised by the small, out-of-the-way park. When they ask about its name, Robert explains that it used to be opposite a post office and all of the postmen used to eat their lunches here. The girls soon realize that the park is also a graveyard, and Julia finds his obsession with final resting places odd. Valentina explores the park and reads some of the inscriptions. Robert explains that the inscriptions detail the stories of...

(The entire section is 507 words.)

Chapter 33 Summary

Valentina and Julia show up at Robert’s door in a panic. Valentina is ill and her breathing is incredibly labored. Robert explains that they will have to go to the hospital because they are not registered with a doctor. While Valentina gets seen by the medical staff, Robert and Julia get her paperwork filled out. He is surprised to find out that Valentina and Julia are mirror twins and that the condition has left Valentina with a congenital heart defect that makes her breathing issues far more dangerous. Valentina is eventually diagnosed with bronchitis and sent home. Julia allows Robert to go fill Valentina’s prescription so she can attend to Valentina, who quickly falls asleep. Elspeth watches Valentina nervously from the...

(The entire section is 626 words.)

Chapters 34-35 Summary

Valentina goes out to the cemetery with Robert, so Julia decides to go visit Martin. She is extremely jealous of Valentina’s relationship and wants to divert herself with Martin’s company. Unfortunately, Martin is working under a tight deadline to finish one of his assignments and cannot watch television with Julia, much to her chagrin. Julia tells Martin that he does not look well and needs to take some vitamins to make up for deficiencies in his diet. He is agreeable to the idea, so she promises to get some for him.

When Julia talks to Valentina about it later, she admits her real intentions. She knows Martin will not take medication for his OCD on his own, so she decides to get a prescription filled for herself...

(The entire section is 420 words.)

Chapter 36 Summary

Elspeth has an idea and is amazed she had not thought of it earlier. She has had trouble making weightier objects move, so one morning she starts playing with the dust on the top of the piano (the girls, unsurprisingly, are not thorough housekeepers). She quickly discovers she can write in the dust and tries to think of the perfect message to write so that the twins believe her and notify Robert. She works very carefully and then writes her message.

Robert is at work on his thesis when the twins knock urgently at the door and drag him upstairs. They show him the piano; the following message is written in the dust: “Greetings, Valentina and Julia—I am here. Love, Elspeth. Robert—22 June 1922—E.” Robert knows...

(The entire section is 505 words.)

Chapter 37 Summary

Early in the morning, Valentina wakes up before Julia does, which is fairly common. She is not yet fully alert as she looks over at the window—and sees Elspeth. She is surprised to be able to see her and thinks about how much Elspeth looks like her mother, Edie. Elspeth seems to be trying to talk to Valentina and begins to move toward her. Valentina suddenly snaps awake and darts out of her flat and down to Robert’s apartment. When she tries to explain the incident he seems to suspect that she dreamed it; however, she thinks being half asleep helped her let her guard down and see something that had been there all along. This was the first time she felt scared around Elspeth, even though the ghost did not seem very angry or...

(The entire section is 518 words.)

Chapter 38 Summary

Martin is nursing a toothache that has been worsening for days when Marijke calls out of the blue. She hears his garbled speech as he explains the situation. She insists that he talk to Robert; she is worried about Martin and secretly hopes Robert can find a dentist who makes house calls. Martin takes some pain pills to try to ease his discomfort, but they mostly make him drowsy. Robert stops by and says he is making some calls and will hopefully be back soon. Martin dozes and wakes up to find Julia with him; Robert asked her to look after him in his absence. She has brought back the bag of peas to ice his tooth.

A short while later, Robert returns with Sebastian, an undertaker associated with the cemetery. Robert...

(The entire section is 438 words.)

Chapters 39-40 Summary

The twins begin to spend time apart. Julia spends her days exploring London and learning its entire layout. While Valentina gets nervous and panicky in the city, especially if she gets lost, Julia sees it as an opportunity to learn something new and get her bearings. Julia desperately wants to involve Valentina in her daily adventures, but Valentina always opts out at the last minute. Instead of exploring with Julia, Valentina stays home to talk with Elspeth. When Julia returns, she often finds the room littered with paper from Valentina’s transcription of their Ouija-board conversations. After a day in the city, Julia will often regale Valentina and Elspeth with tales of her adventures. Julia struggles with Valentina’s...

(The entire section is 436 words.)

Chapter 41 Summary

Robert is in his flat working on a chapter and not getting anywhere. He finds himself illogically angry with the woman whose life (and death) he is attempting to chronicle. Valentina comes to see him and tells him it is a beautiful day outside; without his noticing it, it has become spring. They decide to go for a walk on the path in the cemetery. When they arrive and announce their plans, Jessica asks them to do some raking and clear the path; on the way out, she tells them not to get caught “lollygagging.”

Robert and Valentina head out to the path and begin raking. He apologizes for her having to work, but she seems to enjoy the task. When she asks him what Jessica meant by “lollygagging,” he explains that the...

(The entire section is 527 words.)

Chapters 42-44 Summary

Valentina rediscovers her sewing machine and decides she needs to put in some time working on garments to create a portfolio for her application to fashion school. She finds some luggage with tons of fabric in it, and she begins to go through it. She considers completing some of the partially sewn garments she finds amongst the fabric but decides she wants to do something new. Elspeth floats through the door and asks if she can watch Valentina work. Valentina had been hoping for some privacy, but she complies. Valentina thinks of her mother, who always enjoyed sewing.

Valentina finds several yards of black velvet. She has always avoided it because Julia hates black, but for that very reason she decides to design a dress...

(The entire section is 516 words.)

Chapters 45-46 Summary

Elspeth decides to use the kitten to test Valentina’s plan. She finds the kitten asleep on the bed and wonders how she can recreate what happened accidentally last time. She places her ghostly hands in the cat and explores its insides, looking for a way to grab its soul. The cat startles at the cold created by Elspeth’s invasive searching. She pulls her hands out, frustrated at her lack of success. She tries again and this time gets the kitten’s soul and pulls it out of its body. The kitten’s dead body slumps on the bed as its amorphous soul struggles with Elspeth. The kitten’s soul frees itself from Elspeth’s grasp, runs away, and quickly disappears. Panicked, Elspeth tries to find the kitten but cannot. She has killed...

(The entire section is 540 words.)

Chapter 47 Summary

The following Sunday, Robert has a drink with James and Jessica in the cemetery office after closing time. They inquire about Robert’s progress on his thesis, and he tells them he has written well over a thousand pages and is still only in the early twentieth century. Jessica reminds him that he is writing the history of the cemetery, not the histories of the hundreds of thousands of people buried there. Loosened up by the wine, Robert begins to tell them about Elspeth’s communicating with him and the twins from beyond the grave. Skeptical and concerned about Robert’s mental health, Jessica and James ask him an important question: Assuming he is not delusional, what does he think will ultimately come from his situation? They...

(The entire section is 558 words.)

Chapters 48-52 Summary

Despite the kitten’s death, Elspeth and Valentina still continue planning Valentina’s fake death. Robert continues to object but stays abreast of their plans out of fear for Valentina. Elspeth wonders if she is doing the right thing and considers that she might not be able to bring Valentina back. They are counting on Robert to help them prevent Valentina’s body from decomposing. Elspeth puts aside her worries anytime she sees romantic exchanges between Robert and Valentina.

Robert has a vivid dream that takes place in Highgate Cemetery. It is Resurrection Day, and all of the thousands of souls buried there begin to appear. A vast dinner has been set out for all of the resurrected, and Robert takes a seat at the...

(The entire section is 471 words.)

Chapter 53 Summary

With Julia upstairs visiting Martin, the time has come to enact Valentina and Elspeth’s horrible experiment. Robert does not want to do it, but he does not want to leave Valentina alone with Elspeth. Before they start, Robert holds her close but does not kiss her, perhaps because he feels Elspeth watching them. Valentina holds onto the bed frame and Elspeth enters her body. Valentina feels herself go cold as Elspeth pulls her soul out of her body. Just as Elspeth had been when she first died, Valentina’s soul is barely formed. Elspeth holds it close to her, fearing it will disappear like the kitten’s soul did. She takes Valentina’s soul to a drawer in which she frequently rests, and she waits. Robert cannot see either of...

(The entire section is 426 words.)

Chapter 54 Summary

The day of Valentina’s funeral, Robert goes to see Martin. He invites him to come to the funeral, but Martin is dubious about his ability to leave the house. Robert then asks Martin for a favor: he needs him to bring Julia up to his flat and keep her busy tonight after the funeral. Martin resists and wants to know what Robert is doing. Robert refuses to give details but bribes Martin with the promise of giving him Marijke’s address; Martin agrees to the plan. Julia spent the night alone in the flat but soon wants her parents to join her. They leave their hotel after a restless night and meet her at the flat to get ready for the funeral. Julia initially wants to wear the same dress in which Valentina is being buried, but Edie...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

Chapter 55 Summary

Elspeth now occupies Valentina’s body. The next morning, she awakens feeling weak, stiff, and out of sorts. Robert has gone out to get breakfast. She decides to take a bath to warm herself up. She is too weak to run the bath, however, so she simply lays on the cool tile of the bathroom floor. She is filled with guilt over Valentina, whose ghost is still trapped upstairs.

Martin awakens and readies himself for his departure. He feels some anxiety but seems able to deal with it. He slowly goes out on the landing, focusing on its familiarity to make himself comfortable. He slowly makes his way downstairs and stops at Robert’s door and knocks. Robert, who has only recently returned, eventually lets him in. He looks...

(The entire section is 563 words.)

Chapters 56-59 Summary

Jack and Edie spend several weeks with Julia after the funeral so they can deal with their grief together. Shortly before their departure, Jack and Edie stop by Robert’s flat. Robert asks to speak to Edie privately. He explains that he has all of Elspeth’s diaries and private papers and asks if she wants them. Not only does Edie not want them, she asks him to burn them. The next day, Edie sees a charred spot in the back yard and is grateful that Elspeth’s secrets have been incinerated. Although they desperately want to take Julia back to Chicago with them, Jack and Edie accept her decision to stay. Julia occasionally thinks she can sense Valentina’s presence, and they wonder if this has contributed to her decision.


(The entire section is 620 words.)

Chapter 60 Summary

Valentina and the kitten have slowly become more defined. As with Elspeth, Julia can see them but not hear them. They often communicate silently, and one day Valentina tells Julia she has figured out how to leave the flat once and for all. Julia is initially scared because she knows what this means and is not sure she is ready for it. Following Valentina’s instructions, she closes her eyes and opens her mouth. She feels a cold, strange presence as Valentina and the kitten shrink themselves to fit inside her mouth. Julia closes her mouth and heads downstairs and into the cemetery. She is filled with emotion as she opens her mouth. Valentina and the kitten’s spirits emerge. She sees them fly out into the cemetery and out of...

(The entire section is 478 words.)