Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

I anxiously and lip bitingly finished the latest novel by Audrey Niffeneger, Her Fearful Symmetry. As much as I want write how I feel about this book before jumping into a new book and losing my thoughts about this one, I for the first time after reading a book am completely speechless. I guess more thoughtless would be the correct term. But I am dumbfounded. Sitting on the fence of loving or hating this book. And then I'm still trying to figure out if I even understand what just happened. 

Similar to The Time Traveler's Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry is immensely complex, dives right into a story that quickly unfolds into 6 different layers and you spend the rest of the book jumping from one layer to the next trying to find Waldo in the big busy picture. Kind of like in the Wife you are so busy looking at all of the little people and their accessories in Waldo's big picture, that you can't see the ending and clarity until you go "There he is!" and you find Waldo and suddenly you're saying "Oh I was looking there all along". Just not hard enough. 

So is she absolutely brilliant? (duh.) or do I hate her for getting me to the end of the book fretting over "Do I love it? Even LIKE? But what about..and what about ... but wait. WHAT?" or love her for telling me such a story that does exactly that; knocking me completely off my rocker from left field. You will definitely never get a whirlwind, melodramatic series novel to read from this woman. I knew she was special when I finished and completely fell in love with Traveler's Wife, but girl, you just became a member of my Favorite Author's list. 

This latest novel of hers plays in a stunning historic cemetery called Highgate Cemetery, in London. Which come to find out, is a real attraction in London, complete with buildings and streets that Niffenegger references in her book. I recommend surfing a little through Google before reading this book, because after seeing images of the cemetery and the surroundings, I would have imagined much deeper and vividly (not to mention, hauntingly) while reading this book. (the link will take you to the Highgate Cemetery website, and the Google link to some of the images I researched) . 

Her Fearful Symmetry is about a dieing woman, Elspeth that is not ready to leave this world, or her awkwardly irresistible and handsome boyfriend Robert. After her death, her twin nieces come to live in her flat where they must live for a year, with the promise they will not let their parents, Elspeth's twin sister and husband, visit or even enter, the flat. I will let you find out for yourself if this story is about Elspeth's greed and love for life and the sacrifices made for it, or about the mirror twins that are opposites even in life and death. It is an absolute must read. I hope you struggle through it like I did to end up loving it in the end (I suppose I've concluded that I'm letting myself fall to the "love" side of the fence) . 

I pulled up a couple book reviews and am sharing with you my favorite one. (Be careful - a couple minor spoiler alerts). If I wasn't such a pansy, not engaged, and had a well off aunt that left me her Gothic flat in London with neighbors like Robert and Martin, I would totally live here. 


  1. I loved, loved, loved Her Fearful Symmetry! It took me a little bit to get into it, but once I did I couldn't put it down. I literally finished it while on vacation, holed up in my Uncle's University Library office outside of Boston while it was snowing, which I felt was kind of fitting. lol. I seriously disliked Elspeth, by the way.

  2. SO did I!!! I knew something was up from the very beginning! But in the end I was so pissed off at Robert too. That he actually goes as far a getting her... (don't want to spoil) but what really upset me is that until the end I really thought he loved V. :( AH! The torment of love :)

  3. Honestly, I do think Robert loved V, I just kind of think he got in over his head. Plus, Elspeth was manipulative and cunning, so V didn't really stand much of a chance.