Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Twins Julia and Valentina inherit an apartment in London from an aunt (their mother’s twin Elspeth) they didn’t know they had. To accept the inheritance, they must live in the flat for one year, which is fine by them since they usually just hang out doing nothing anyway. Once there, they meet their strange neighbors as well as their dead aunt (in ghost form) and get a cat. Oh and… Valentina starts to chafe under Julia’s dominance in their relationship. Is trouble ahead in twinland?

HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY is a strange novel, and I still haven’t decided if I really liked it or just sort of liked it. Although the aimless younger twins are ostensibly the main characters, Elspeth looms so large that it feels more like her story. Add, too, the fact that non-integral supporting characters, such as OCD afflicted Martin and his long-suffering wife, are far more interesting than the twins and you have an odd dynamic indeed.

Still, Niffenegger certainly knows how to hold a reader’s attention and I was never bored – even if the creepy paranormal aspects of the narrative didn’t kick into high gear until halfway through. When what happened with the cat happened, I was so creeped out, I put the book down for two days and shivered whenever I thought about what would probably happen next (and which eventually did happen).

No one should go into this expecting a TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE clone, but lovers of light gothic literary fiction, ghosts and or twins will likely enjoy their reading experience.

HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY is out in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

36 comments:

Heidi Willis said...

Lenore - I'm so glad you reviewed this book! I loved Time Traveler's Wife, and although I love the cover of this one, I've read some really terrible reviews about it.

I think your summary of what was done well and not so well is very balanced and gives me a better picture of whether or not I'd like this book.

It strikes me as the kind of book you don't really like as soon as you're finished with it, and then find that it keeps niggling at your brain for weeks on end until you decide it's more complex than just not liking it... that maybe you did like it after all... just not in the way you think of liking books.

Does that make sense?

Anyway, great review!

Mari said...

I am interested in reading this one because I loved The Time Traveller's Wife so much. I see it is not going to be t all the same and this one has received such mixed reviews that I am hoping I won't be to disappointed. Think I may get from the library .

Jackie said...

It's definitely hard to review books when your feelings are torn, for sure. Great review, though. It's a book that I'll probably get to soon but not sure I would prioritize before other I'm anxious to read

bermudaonion said...

I've found that finding someone to talk to about a book helps me resolve my feelings when I'm feeling conflicted like that. The reviews for this one seem to be all over the place, but I still want to read it.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I really want to read this one. It sounds interesting. I've never read anything else by her so I guess that's a good start...no expectations. haha

-Lauren

Nicole said...

I have issues with books and movies where things happen to animals! I go back and forth with this book the more I read about it. Sometimes I want o run right out the door to go and get it and at others, ehh, not so much.

PolishOutlander said...

My favorite character was Martin. It certainly wasn't TTW, but then again, it is so different from TTW that it can't be compared: it's just a different beast. I agree, the scene with the cat and what followed was just painful to read, or even consider; it left a pit in my stomach. When I went to her signing/reading two weeks ago, some in the audience actually said that they liked this better than TTW. I think there was a silent gasp in the crowd.

bookalicious said...

TTW is one of my all time favourite and I had high expectations for this one because I know the author is an excellent writer, but I knew I shouldn't expect another TTW. I've reviewed it a while ago (here) and quite liked it. Wasn't fully blown away, but I found it an enjoyable story albeit very creepy. Especially the ending, eeek. On the whole, I was quite impressed with it and what I admire most about this author is that she can come up with the craziest ideas ever and she makes them work! I hear her next book is about some chinchilla girl or something (source), which sounds completely weird but I'll definitely read it just because I trust the author. But I'm sure we can all agree that TTW was amazing and she'll have a hard time ever surpassing that. :)

carolsnotebook said...

I haven't read the Time Traveller's Wife, and am not going to, but this one has really struck. I think I'll have to get ahold of it.

PJ Hoover said...

I have the audio version in my library. I will listen, but I'm not sure when. It's kind of nice knowing going in that it is not like TTW.

avisannschild said...

I'm sorry to hear this one's not getting a rave review from you! My expectations are/were pretty high, considering how much I loved TTTW. I'm also worried now about what happened to the cat. (I love cats!) Is it really gross or just creepy? I'm still going to have to read the book!

Aimee said...

wonderful review

-Aimee
www.myflutteringheart.blogspot.com

Kristen M. said...

I just got my copy from the library the other day so obviously I'm going to have to read it in the next couple of weeks. I think this sounds like it's not a bestseller sort of book but more of a niche read. That said, it sounds like my niche. :) I'll let you know how it goes!

caite said...

I didn't love this one...but it seems every review I have read agrees we all liked Martin!

Tabitha said...

I met Audrey at one of her book release parties here in Chicago (she's good friends with a good friend of mine), and she's just so *nice*. And funny!

She was worried that no one would like HFS because it's so unlike TTW, but wrote it anyway. After hearing that, I am predisposed to like it even though I haven't read it yet. But I will...my signed copy is sitting next to my bed, waiting for me to get to it. :)

Nymeth said...

This one seems to be getting some mixed reviews! I love Gothic fiction, though, so I have a feeling I'll be in the loved it camp.

I Heart Monster said...

Sounds very... interesting. Thanks for the review... going to add it to my list.

Alice Teh said...

This one definitely goes into my wish list. Thanks for the review!

Melody said...

I've heard a lot of good things about this book, and I can't wait to read it. And I need to catch up on reading The Time Traveler's Wife too! :P

Staci said...

I'm excited to read this one and I really liked what you had to say about your reading experience.

Rhiannon Hart said...

This sounds a lot like The Thirteenth Tale which I just finished. I think I've had enough Gothic twins for now, what with that and Prophecy of the Sisters. I haven't come across an Elspeth outside Obernewtyn. It's an unusual name.

Petunia said...

It sounds sooooo good. Glad it's not like TTW because I really didn't care for that one(the movie was awesomeness but the book just wasn't).

Jenn M. said...

Great, honesst review. I've wanted to pick this one up for quite a while!

Kailana said...

I still haven't read this! I think I am a bit worried that I won't like it because I loved her other book so much...

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Interesting review! I have this one but haven't read it yet; your review makes me really curious about it! I liked, but didn't loved, The Time-Traveler's Wife, so I'm even more curious to read this one since it's different.

2.0 Blog said...

i dont think this book is for me, but
i really like the title

2.0 Blog said...

o and btw to Rhiannon-
i work with an Elspeth, lol
she says it's a family name

Beth Kephart said...

Ah, Lenore (my dear friend). I came down more on the not like it so much side, to be honest. And I thought of you and the cat, actually, when I was reading that.

My favorite character was definitely Martin.

brizmus said...

I'm so glad you liked this book!
I've only read one other review of it, and it was great, though I've heard through the grapevine that it's been getting bad reviews. So I've been worried, of course.
I'll have to remember not to expect the time Traveler's Wife when I go into it.

I don't like hearing that something bad happens to a cat, though. I have enough trouble as it is reading (and writing, for that matter) about a character that even eats meat. Much less other bad things happening to animals.

Sadako said...

I love paranormal lit. Thanks for reviewing this. And twins are especially creepy to read about! Come play with us....yeah. :D

caite said...

I think I am in the "sort of" liked it category.
I don't think anyone liked it as much as they like TTW, which I am still to read.

Marie said...

okay, you've kind of convinced me! :-)

Mishel said...

I haven't read the Time Traveler's Wife yet so I won't have too high expectations going into this read. Thank you for the review, very thoughtful!

Zibilee said...

I really, really want to read this book, but I have no idea of what to expect. I really liked your review, it made me even more curious about the book, if that's possible, and didn't have too many spoilers. I do like gothic fiction, so I think I will probably like the book, but I'll let you know for sure after I've read it.

Hazra said...

Great review! Sounds like a perfect Halloween book. I'm thinking of starting on Time Traveller's Wife after I've finished the 4 books I'm reading now, and I'm looking forward to it.

Jen - devourer of books said...

I'm glad you at least sort of liked it. I agree, the cat thing was really creepy. My main thing with this book was Niffenegger's writing, which I just loved!