16 July 2010
Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Release Date: 29 June 2010
Date Finished: 15 July 2010
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, Hogwarts Reading Challenge,
The Short and Sweet of It
Julia and Valentina move across the ocean after they inherit a London flat from their aunt Elspeth, but that is just one tiny step on the path that now lies before them. Their arrival in London changes both of them as they settle in to their new apartment which sits next to the famous Highgate Cemetery and houses two eccentric men and one ghost. The story is well written and the characters intriguing, but it's not quite a "buy" and I'm having difficulty putting my finger on why.
A Bit of a Ramble
As I am clearly the last person to read this novel, I'm not exactly sure what to write in my review. Any drawn out plot summary or explanation of the text seems unnecessary and frivolous. I do think I come at the book from a unique perspective though: I have never read The Time Traveler's Wife. I know, I know, how strange right? A quick glance through reviews indicates that I may be the only person who didn't go in to Her Fearful Symmetry with any sort of expectations based on that much lauded story. How this affected interpretation and enjoyment I can't really say.
The cast of characters within the story appealed to me. None of them were very likable, it was difficult to relate to them for the most part, and the decisions almost all of them made were rather silly; and yet, I found them fascinating. Julia and Valentina are clearly set up to be rather stereotypical twins: one the leader who is also the more dependent, the other the follower who wants to break away. Despite their commonalities with other fictional twins, Julia and Valentina were just odd enough to have me interested. The two men in the novel, Robert and Martin, are each unique with Robert being rather manipulable and Martin suffering from severe OCD. Then there's Elspeth herself and her twin sister Edie who have secrets kept buried for decades.
The wonderful thing about loving these characters is that they are each given ample development; the author did not focus all her attention on Julia and Valentina, so chapter by chapter each character's story is told. Far from being secondary, Robert, Martin, and Elspeth have fully developed stories that coexist with Julia and Valentina's story rather than relying on it.
A few points in the novel had me scrunching my eyebrows in disbelief. For example, who would have that Very Very Bad Idea and what idgit would go along with it? That felt a bit contrived to me. And the ending was almost too obviously open, like the author wanted to be purposefully frustrating. Sometimes open endings feel perfect for a story, are the only way the story could end, and at other times, like this, an open ending feels like a literary device purposefully constructed to call attention to itself.
Despite these misgivings, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and thought the plot and characters well-crafted and unique and the story well written. Perhaps this will motivate me to finally read The Time Traveler's Wife.
On a side note, I'm trying to decide where to shelve this book. I separate my fiction into only two categories: realistic and SFF. Usually this is a rather easy decision to make, but in the case of Her Fearful Symmetry I am tempted to put it in realistic fiction despite the paranormal portion of the book. What do you think? Realistic or SFF?
This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!
Bibliofreakblog; Linus's Blanket; Bending Bookshelf; my fluttering heart; Care's Online Book Club; Find Your Next Book Here; Rhapsody in Books; Fyrefly's Book Blog; Fizzy Thoughts; You've Gotta Read This; book-a-rama; Presenting Lenore; books i done read; Reviews by Lola; S. Krishna's Books; Stainless Steel Droppings; The Literary Amnesiac; I'm Booking It;
I could have kept going with the reviews as I am clearly the last person in the blogosphere to read this book. If I missed yours, let me know, and I'd be glad to link it!
In case I'm wrong, and there are actually others out there who haven't read this book, I'm pleased to say that the publishing company has generously provided me with a copy to give away. Fill out the form below if you are interested. Open internationally.