Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger




I read Niffenegger's first novel The Time Traveler’s Wife before I started LindyLouMac’s Book Reviews and although it became one of my favourite novels, I never wrote more than a paragraph about it Bookcrossing Journal Entry.I was not used to writing reviews then and found it impossible to write anything worthwhile without it containing spoilers. However I did comment that you need to read it with an open mind and it is the same case with Her Fearful Symmetry.

Lets hope that I can do better this time. This is another very imaginative storyline but surrounded by reality and I think I enjoyed it. An odd thing to say but I did find some of the story difficult to cope with, due to the unethical behaviour of one of the characters which I found disturbing! I obviously cannot say more, if you have read this you will probably guess what I am referring to, if you haven’t well read the book to find out. Let me know what your thoughts were, I am interested, would you behave like that given the unlikely opportunity?

A haunting love story centred around two sets of Noblin family twins, Edie and Elspeth and the younger generation Julia and Valentina. Elspeth is estranged from her twin so when she dies she leaves her estate to the young girls. The main condition of the will is that they leave there home the other side of the Atlantic and live in the London flat for a year. Julia and Valentina much to their parents dismay were keen to take up this opportunity. The move to the apartment in Vautravers a house with direct access to Highgate Cemetery brings them into contact with not only Elspeth’s neighbours, Robert and Martin but the ‘afterlife’. Robert was Elspeth’s lover and he at first finds the twins resemblance to her very difficult to cope with. The other resident is Martin who suffers so badly from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that he no longer leaves his flat. The girls learn to find their way around London, explore Highgate Cemetery and both befriend one of the neighbours each as one of them starts to want independence from the other one. Highgate Cemetery features strongly in the novel and the facts you learn about it are very interesting, so I guess this has increased tourist visits there.

Highgate Cemetery . Photo courtesy of savidgereads from his review.

The afterlife aspect of the story is the central theme as we discover the history of this family of twin identities and it is dealt with by the author in the same matter of fact way that she wrote about ‘time travel’. Unfortunately like so many other reviewers I was rather disappointed with the ending, but I suppose it was difficult to end it other way when you think about it.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not I recommend you read this, if you can cope with the ‘afterlife’ aspect as Audrey Niffenegger has once again produced a novel that is unique (I think, unless you know differently) in its storyline.

Also did anyone else appreciate where the title comes from? The novel's title is inspired by The Tyger by William Blake which begins "Tiger, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night,  What immortal hand or eye  Could frame thy fearful symmetry?". The poem is mentioned along with a full synopsis of the novel on Wikipedia.

This interview that I found on YouTube is also interesting as Audrey Niffengger explains how the theme of loss and making the most of what we have appears in her novels.

Courtesy of beyondbooks

If you are interested in learning more about Audrey Niffenegger and the book she is currently working on visit her Official Website .


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed The Time Traveller's Wife, so I must get hold of a copy of this one, so that I can read it and report back! I look forward to reading about one of the character's unethical behaviour! Your Review certainly made me want to read the book.

  2. I loved TTW and was quite disappointed with this one. Martin was the only character I really liked or cared about.

  3. I also loved TTW and thought this one was horrid...

    I reviewed it here: http://sumthinblue.com/her-fearful-symmetry/

  4. My brother promised me ages ago he would lend me his copy and I'm still waiting! Ah well one day.

  5. I didnt like Time traveller's wife.Found it too rambling and disorienting.. but i not averse to picking this book up.

  6. I love love LOVED The Time Traveller's Wife, but I'm sad to admit I just couldn't get hooked into this novel. I read the first 100 pages or so, and couldn't get much further. I've heard the same thing from several other readers, as well.

  7. Hi,

    I came to thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such a nice message. Actually, I think I should have gone to your other blog but when I saw this post I just had to stay and comment because I love this author and I thought both of her books were super! If you like "Her Fearful Semmetry" you would also like "The Thirteenth Tale" by another author but in the same style.(-:

  8. I have to say I expected too much from this book. I read and finished it the same day it came out and was so disappointed. I will still read her next book. I love TTTW.

  9. Thisisme - I do not like spoilers in reviews so it was difficult to explain I hope 'unethical' was the right description! I look forward to hearing from you when you have read this.

    Avid Reader - Oh yes poor Martin and his worst case scenario of OCD, so sad really.

    sumthinblu - Thanks for link to your review which I will go and read, yes it was horrid in parts but still well written.

    Jessica - Do get your brother to lend it to you soon!

    Bedazzled - I fear if you did not like TTW that you will like this even less.

    Talli - I can understand why you gave up but it is a shame you did so as I would have loved to have known your thoughts from a writers point of view!

    La Vie - Thankyou for calling by and commenting much appreciated and hope to see you here again. I have in fact read The Thirteenth Tale and reviewed it on this blog just a couple of months ago and I liked it, much more than this one actually!

    BookQuoter - I am surprised you were able to read it so quickly, I usually find reading slower when I am disappointed. Did you do a quotes post?

  10. Hi Lindy, I was reading this book so fast, all the time waiting for it to be great, and waiting, and waiting. And maybe that was what happened. Too high of an expectation. But I just really had a problem with the second half of the book. I usually only quote the books I love, and sadly I didn't love this one.

  11. Bookquoter - I had a feeling this would be your answer, as I think I have probably raised the same question with reference to other books before.

  12. Sounds like a good read for me..I'll look into this. Thanks..

  13. I thought this book was awful.But it wasn't one of those books that is so awful I don't finish it. So I got to the end and wondered why I'd bothered. Didn't read her first book but did watch the movie, which on reflection left the same empty feeling as this book did. Maybe off the wall ghost stories aren't for me.

  14. This book is DEFINITELY on my reading list as TTW is in my top ten favourite books. This was a great review - tantalising without giving any spoilers.

  15. Icy BC - Great to have you here, commenting, thankyou, I will look forward to hearing what you think!

    Fire Byrd - Maybe you finished it as it was well written, I think that is why I finished it, what happened was awful though. I dislike such awful unpleasantness in ghosts :)

    Sarah - That is exactly what I try to do tantalise without spoilers :)

  16. I've been fence sitting on this book ever since it was published. I loved TTW, but the supernatural aspect of this one is a turn off for me. Then I will hear from people whose opinion I respect (like you) that it's good and I get all confused again. Maybe I'll get to it eventually.

  17. Pam - I am replying to you direct as we already prefer to communicate that way to each other :)

  18. I forgot to say THANK YOU for posting the video of Audrey on here. It was so interesting seeing her talk in real life!

  19. Sarah - I have also replied direct to you as not sure if you subscribe to comments.


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