Saturday, December 19, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry

Author: Audrey Niffenegger

Publication Date: 2009

Category: Fiction

Who'll want to read it? People with a keen sense of the unusual.

Point of no return: I wanted to read this book because of who wrote it, but even if I hadn't, the first chapter is very captivating.

What's it all about? Robert's girlfriend Elspeth dies, leaving everything except her personal papers to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. Elspeth is herself a twin, although she has not spoken to Edie since her nieces were babies. The conditions of her will state that the girls are to live in her apartment for a year before disposing of it as they wish, and that Edie and her husband Jack are not allowed to enter the apartment at all.

Upstairs from Elspeth's apartment live Martin and Marijke, until Marijke can no longer live with Martin's obsessive compulsive disorder, and leaves him to fend for himself. His OCD won't let him leave the apartment, so he is totally reliant on the Internet, the telephone, and Robert, who lives on the ground floor.

Elspeth, after her death, finds herself back in her apartment, at first just drifting around, but gradually getting stronger. Once the girls have moved in, she begins communicating with them, and with Robert, who still has a key to the flat.

Julia and Valentina have a very close, almost stifling, twin relationship, but their move from America to England puts a strain on this. Julia and Martin develop a close friendship, while Valentina falls for Robert (who reciprocates).

And then things get complicated.

I really didn't like most of the characters in this book, but I was fascinated by their interactions, and their motivations. I still can't figure out if I liked the book itself, but I still class it as a good read, mainly because I am still thinking about it, wondering what happened next.

Edit: I've decided that I DO like it. Robert is very endearing, and I was left with a sense of justice served. This book has generated many conversations between people who have read it, and would make an excellent book club book.

Publisher: Scribner


Elizabeth said...

Niffenegger has certainly explored and created a new genre in her writing and therfore very different to The Time Traveller's Wife......I have been asking patrons what their thoughts are on 'Her Fearful Symmetry' and most were wanting more of her debut.

Kieran said...

I was very excited about this book during the first third. I absolutely loved it and then somewhere around the halfway mark it started dissolving. I did feel the need to finish it though and finished it in a 3 hour sitting between 2 and 5 am this morning.I just wanted to get it over and done with it. So, it was compelling, but I was very disappointed with the characters. I think it's a very clever mix of Gothic, Victorian and other themes that tie in with the whole character of Highgate Cemetery. As I write this I realise it is just Elspeth I really despise, but I think Robert was just a bit too dumb.

Ruby said...

I loved it! Visually observing my own heart beating in my chest at a certain moment! I don't think I loved or hated the characters.. each has their own history (?)

Joanne said...

Ruby, I think you are right, we all come from our own experiences, making us all different people. Niffenegger is a very evocative writer, and explores very different character types.

I think this book is well worth re-visiting, and I may just add it to my in-the-near-future reading list.

Kieran said...

I still think Robert is dumb.