Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

her-fearful-symmetryAudrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry was perhaps my most anticipated book of the year. The obvious question is, did it live up to that anticipation? For me, the answer is yes, and then some. The reason being, it was nothing like I expected. I didn’t know much about the plot because I had avoided spoilers like the plague and I think everyone should, so my plot description of this one will be very brief.

Niffenegger paints a story of two twins, Julia and Valentina who inherit a building in London that lies adjacent to Highgate Cemetery after their Aunt Elspeth’s death. They never knew or met their Aunt Elspeth, but she will soon get to know them as she haunts the flat in the building that they live in. Also living in the building is Robert, Elspeth’s husband who is a tour guide at Highgate cemetery, and Martin, a man who suffers with obsessive compulsive disorder.

One of the things I loved about this novel is that everything is a character. The house itself is a character, the city is a character, Highgate Cemetery¬†is just amazing and I’m dying to go to London now just to go on a tour of it. The human characters are just perfect. I loved them all. I’m not going to talk about each of them individually, because there are quite a few of them, but even the secondary and tertiary characters are beautiful. Niffenegger has a way of making the most quiet scenes full of beauty. Anyone who has read The Time Traveler’s Wife knows this.

This is a very different novel from The Time Traveler’s Wife. I think the question everyone asks is “how does it compare to The Time Traveler’s Wife“? And my answer is that it doesn’t. I could never compare it to that novel because it’s so different. Both look at human emotions and examine the strength of human bonds, yes, but they are very different stories, with very different feelings attached to them. I found Her Fearful Symmetry to be very atmospheric, my favorite type of novel. It was delightfully creepy and haunting at times, but never in a disturbing way.

I’ve read some reviews that take issue with the ending of the novel, saying that it was too rushed; that some characters weren’t treated fairly, and honestly, I don’t yet know how I feel on that. I can see where those people are coming from, but at the same time, I like Niffenegger’s ending. I would’ve liked a little more resolve with one character plot, but that’s my only complaint. Niffenegger can rest assured that I’ll be happily waiting in line for her next book to arrive. She’s a force!

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11 2009

16 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. 1

    We should just skip the big book thing in New York and go to London together. You would adore London, I’m sure. I’ve been there 4 times, so I know my way around a bit. One time I had to stop to argue with my husband because he was turned around and I knew he was going the wrong way, I just knew it. He said I was obviously crazy, since I’m the one without any sense of direction. Hahaha. I was right!! That was such a great moment (being right about direction, for once!!).

  2. 2

    I’m glad you were finally able to read it and am happy that you enjoyed it. I am glad that she wrote a book so different that early on you find yourself not comparing it to TTW just because it is so different. She is a very talented writer and I too will be reading her next as soon as it comes out…I just hope it doesn’t take so long this time. I still stand by my opinions about the end and how I didn’t like many of the characters when all was said and done. It doesn’t affect my feelings about her as a writer because she intended the characters to be the way they were. I just didn’t find the majority of them very likable. Still, she is amazing. Why is it that some of our most favorite authors cannot crank books out fast enough for us? What? Do they actually have lives or something?!?! :)

  3. 3

    Yeah. I’m one of those really rare people that couldn’t stand The Time Traveler’s Wife, and didn’t particularly like The Three Incestuous Sisters, either. There was a portion of this book online at one point, through her website or something, and I tried reading it, but after the first few paragraphs could already tell I was just not going to like it. I don’t think Niffenegger and I get along.

  4. 4

    I just read the TTW earlier this month and have yet to write a review for it. I”ve been reading quite a few of them (good reads and stuff) and have found that a shocking amount of folks do not like her. but who cares about them? :P

    i can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

  5. Eva #

    I’m glad it lived up to your expectations. :) I’ll just be sticking to The Time Traveler’s Wife!

  6. 6

    I should be starting on this one at some point this week (despite the fact my sidebar claims I’m already reading it!) really looking forward to it!

  7. 7

    Glad you liked it! I can understand how some people didn’t – especially if they went in expecting another Time Traveler’s Wife – but I enjoyed it A LOT. I thought she did a great job on the ending. After all the crazy things that had happened, it would have been easy to wind up with an ending that was overwrought, but instead she managed one that was understated and final and right.

  8. 8

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one–I thought it was wonderful too!!

  9. 9

    I’ve never even read The Time Traveler’s Wife *ducking so you don’t hit me*…but honestly, I think I’m even more eager to read this one! Fabulous review, Chris…you’ve left me lusting.

  10. 10

    Oh yay, you loved it! :D :D :D :D :D
    Er … so did I, obviously. :P

  11. 11

    I enjoyed this book, but did not think it was perfect. Your review was great; thanks

  12. 12

    I love atmospheric books, so will probably like this. I appreciate the things you point out here, like NOT to compare it to Time Traveler’s Wife, and that “everything is a character,” and “Niffenegger has a way of making the most quiet scenes full of beauty.” Great review that gave me a sense of what to expect and not expect!

  13. 13

    While I don’t quite share your love for the book, I definitely share your love for the writer. Audrey knows how to push buttons, doesn’t she?? This book was amazing for the characters alone; whether you love or hate them. Martin was by far my favorite, I would have loved a novel about him alone. He was just fascinating to me.

    I’m glad you loved it Chris. I really want to reread it at some point; I still feel like I missed some vital, essential ingredient that, if I had only caught it, would have made me loved it as much as you and others did. Great review.

  14. 14

    I have wondered about this book. I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife so much that I’ve been afraid to read this one, in case I didn’t like it…

  15. 15

    i too really enjoyed this book! I was not one who absolutely loved Time Traveler’s Wife (I thought it was okay) so I was really happy when Symmetry turned out to be such a completely different book. And if you find some great discount tickets to Highgate Cemetery let me know. I think the house, city and cemetery were a big reason I loved this book!

  16. 16

    Thank you, Chris! I think I am appreciating this book more as I keep reading such terrific thought-provoking more-question-asking reviews. That may not mean I like it more, certainly not less – I do think Ms. Niffenegger is very clever and creative.


  1. Her Fearful Symmetry « Care's Online Book Club 05 01 10

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