Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Paranormal
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, 2009

This is a book that has been on my 'must read this year' list and the RIP challenge provided the perfect time. I'm one of the sad minority who weren't overly impressed by TTW but afterward, wandering through reviews, I noticed how many readers who loved it were disappointed or disliked HFS and hoped that for me it would work the other way round...........and it did! I really liked Her Fearful Symmetry.

Love a good ghost story!

Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers - normal ,at least, for identical 'mirror' twins who have no interest in college or jobs. But everything changes when they learn that an aunt whom they didn't know existed has died and left them her flat which overlooks Highgate Cemetery in London. They feel that at last their lives can begin - but have no idea they've been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives.........and an aunt who can't seem to leave her flat.

Like many other people I have a fascination for cemeteries and love nothing more than to wander among old gravestones and imagine stories about the folk behind the inscriptions. I found all the information about Highgate and some of its occupants most interesting and , of course, it created the necessary creepy gothic atmosphere of a good ghost story. Death is symbolic for the end of a cycle, change and transformation.........the need to cope with loss, to bury the past or lay something to rest and move on with as positive attitude as possible. Most of the characters in HFS are stuck clinging to the past in some way and are...

Disturbed people in dysfunctional relationships

Normally I prefer to like at least one character but the fact that most of this lot are extremely unlikeable only seemed to add to the atmosphere. The twins and their parents, Robert and the dear departed Elspeth are seriously weird and totally incapable of making sane and sensible choices. I did like the love story between Martin , suffering from COD, and his wife, Marijke .......their problems are normal and visible which adds the necessary balance to the story.

For me this was a book where I was happy to suspend belief and let my imagination fly , to become engrossed in and totally enjoy a very good ghost story.  There is some lovely prose and imagery , it's original and creative and my only disappointment was the final pages seemed a bit rushed.


  1. This definitely looks incredible -- yes, count me in as one of those people that enjoy meandering around in an old cemetery and imagining the lives of the people on the headstones. In fact, I was just in Boston recently and did just that!

    I just reviewed a book on disturbed people in dysfunctional relationships and loved i -- I'm not quite sure why I'm so in love with reading those types of stories...?

  2. I'm excited to read this one and think I should read it before TTW now. And it sounds like a perfect book for RIP challenge.

  3. Kathleen - it is a good RIP read. Most people love TTW but I think I prefer ghost stories to love stories.

    Natalie - and dysfunctional families. Much more interesting.

  4. I loved the first parts of this book but then it took a side trip and I thought it never got back on track. I did love the ghost aspect of it and how Elsepth experiments with her new state. And I loved the Martin story line; I think that she could write a book about just him.

    Glad it worked for you.

    And I love seeing Musashi in your sidebar!

  5. I'm super excited to hear that you enjoyed this one so much as I have it checked out from the library. It certainly sounds good and I'm looking forward to reading it. I have to admit that I've never read The Time Traveler's Wife so I won't be able to compare the two :) Great review!

  6. My brother read this and he agreed with you about the end but overall he enjoyed it.

    Im still waiting to borrow his copy though

  7. I am glad to hear that you enjoyed it.
    I did give it a go, ok a few pages, I am bad, perhaps I will go back one day

  8. I had planned to read this for the R.I.P. challenge this year, but I seem to have misplaced my copy. Will have to do a more thorough search before it is over with!

  9. I felt like this book caught some flak from other bloggers, but I loved it! It is such a unique, creative story.

  10. Cat I couldn't even finish TTW so I didn't even consider this one, your the 1st review I think I read and I guess it was a good reason, great review.

  11. I was all into this book until...I don't even know how to say it without giving anything away but the "big" event idea first came into the picture. I just thought that was so creepy.

  12. I really enjoyed this one too. I loved how challenging this book was - it was pretty unconventional and some ideas questioned ethics.