Thursday, 29 November 2018

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Published by Johnathan Cape in October 2009.

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers - normal, at least, for identical 'mirror' twins who have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when they receive notice that an aunt whom they didn't know existed has died and left them her flat in an apartment block overlooking Highgate Cemetery in London. They feel that at last their own lives can begin ... but have no idea that they've been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt's mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them, and even to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the twins' mother - and who can't even seem to quite leave her flat....

With Highgate Cemetery itself a character and echoes of Henry James and Charles Dickens, HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY is a delicious and deadly twenty-first-century ghost story about Niffenegger's familiar themes of love, loss and identity. It is certain to cement her standing as one of the most singular and remarkable novelists of our time.

Having loved Audrey Niffenegger's first novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, I had looked forward to her second offering, Her Fearful Symmetry. Having now finished that book though, I am struggling to accept that the two were written by the same author. I really didn't enjoy the mish-mash of half-baked plotlines, flat characters and ridiculously convenient coincidences. And was I the only to feel uncomfortable at Robert's transference of his affections from Elspeth to her young niece?

On the plus side, Highgate Cemetery comes out of the book well - perhaps all that does - and I am now keen to take one of the frequently mentioned guided tours. This and the fact that I did struggle through to the final pages has merited a two-star rating, but I can't honestly recommend Her Fearful Symmetry to anyone.


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13 comments:

  1. I enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife when I read it many years ago but I stopped reading that kind of genre so never tried this one. I'm fascinated by Highgate Cemetery and the rumours of vampires there and would love to visit it!

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    1. Me too! I've dropped hints to a friend who lives in London that a visit could be Something Fun To Do. But she's not so gothically minded :-/

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  2. Glad the cemetery was a shining character in the story even if the rest wasn't on par with the earlier book. Still need to read that one. Yikes!

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    1. I was surprised that Niffenegger could write such totally different novels. To me, this one felt like another author!

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    2. I was surprised that Niffenegger could write such totally different novels. To me, this one felt like another author!

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  3. ok I gaped at the cover. BAM! hooked! I was sure it was a horror or paranormal at least LOL then read "twins" which I for some reason find a great topic for stories, and then an apartment overlooking a Cemetery??? this sounds so interesting! but yes I would felt uncomfortable too with that niece situation!

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    1. It's rare I actively steer people away from books, but sadly this one has more ewww moments than positive ones :-(

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  4. I thought the Time Traveler's Wife was great, but for some reason I never even thought to see if she had other books. So this post just caught my eye. Sorry to hear it was such a disappointment though. It does sound a bit of a mess, but I'm still kind of curious about it.

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    1. The setting I thought was well done, but I couldn't recommend the story itself. A shame as TTW was fab

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  5. I read The Time Traveler's Wife years ago and remember really liking it, but then I was looking it over again and re-reading the summary and my feelings on it have changed a bit. I was recommended this one a couple times from some fellow readers but I trust your judgment more and will skip it!

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    1. I remember absolutely loving The Time Traveler's Wife, but I read before I started book blogging and I know I see books very differently now. I don't want to risk re-reading and being let down!

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  6. Oh no, this sounds like such a let down for you in the worst way, especially as you'd read one of her books before and thought it was going to be brilliant. I haven't read The Time Traveler's Wife but is on my shelf and waiting for me... I'll definitely make sure to start with that one and not this second novel of hers.

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    1. Yes, I had high hopes which were well and truly crushed!

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