Thursday, February 21, 2013

Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger

Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup.

The Time Traveler's Wife is one of my favorite novels, so I was really looking forward to reading Her Fearful Symmetry. The plot is quite different from The Time Traveler's Wife. Elspeth dies, and leaves her flat to her two nieces, twins Julia and Valentina. Their mother was named Edie, and she and Elspeth were twins too, though they had been estranged for a long time. The two conditions of the inheritance are that they both live in the flat for at least a year before selling it, and that their parents can't come inside it. Julia and Valentina move into the apartment, which borders Highgate Cemetery, where many famous people are buried. They also become involved with some of their live neighbors: Martin, who makes crossword puzzles and has crippling OCD, and Robert, a scholar of the cemetery and Elspeth's lover. They discover that much is alive in Highgate, including (perhaps) their aunt.

The plot of this novel sounded much less interesting than The Time Traveler's Wife, though like The Time Traveler's Wife, the book is largely realistic except for one supernatural element. But still, I didn't find Her Fearful Symmetry as compelling. It wasn't bad, just less absorbing, less suspenseful.

Also, it felt like the characters were less developed. A hundred pages in, we still didn't know much about the twins, though the character of Martin had been developed a lot. I did love the descriptions of the relationship between Julia and Valentina; one has a mole on her right cheek, the other on her left. They're basically mirror images of one another.

As I said, Martin, who suffers from OCD, was characterized really well. It was so sad to see how he is destroyed by his obsessive compulsion to make everything "uncontaminated". I think everyone has something of the OCD in them, just not to this extreme.

I enjoyed Her Fearful Symmetry, and its plot was fairly interesting. One its own, it makes for an okay novel, though it pales in comparison to The Time Traveler's Wife. There's less humor in this one too. And I really didn't like the ending. Still, if you loved The Time Traveler's Wife, I would recommend it.

Read Her Fearful Symmetry:
  • if you like Audrey Niffenegger
  • if you like books set in London
401 pages, 3.5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. The book title sounded so coll but having characters that aren't developed well is a big no no in my book. I would think the author would have enough time based upon how long the book is. I think a lot of what makes a book great is some sort of great expectations towards it beforehand. That way it's never really a flop not saying this was flop but you know what I mean (;
    Marin sounds like the most interesting part of the story. I wonder in what way he is destroyed by his own... self. It makes the book sound darker than I had thought it was.