Thursday, 1 November 2012

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger: Book Review

This week I have been reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, the number one bestselling author of The Time Travellers Wife. After reading her previous book - which is now a movie adaptation - I had really high hopes for this book.


The story starts in london with Elspeth and her lover Robert. Elspeth sadly dies of leukemia, leaving Robert with her diaries, and her estate is left to her twin nieces who live in Chicago, whom she has never met.
The nieces are given Elspeths apartment in London on the grounds that they are to live there for a year before moving and/or selling and that their Mother - Elspeths twin sister Edie - never sets foot in the apartment.

Elspeths lover, Robert, lives below the apartment, and Martin, an obsessive compulsive whose wife has just left him, lives above.

The main story revolves around the twins - Valentina and Julia - and their relationship. Valentina is more reserved whilst Julia is quite clearly the dominant twin. Valentina has situs invertus, a condition which means all of her organs are on the opposite side of her body, including her heart. She has asthma and often gets ill whereas Julia never does. This means that Julia often has to care for Valentina, even when Valentina wished she wouldn't.We get to read about their relationship together, and how they feel when they're apart. Julia stops her sister doing things she wants to do, and even goes as far as to smoke around her just because she knows her sister doesn't like it, to show that she is in control.

Throughout the book different relationships are formed. Valentina ends up falling for Robert whilst Julia strikes up a friendship with Martin the obsessive compulsive upstairs. All of them have their own small stories to tell whilst they are all caught up in their own problems. Robert continues to struggle with his loss of Elspeth, whilst Martin has to deal with the departure of his wife.

Eventually, a ghost story begins to appear. It seems that Elspeth is stuck in the twins apartment and is unable to get out. She manages to communicate with them by writing in dust. This then leads to a strange sort of relationship between Valentina and Elspeth. They spend a lot of time communicating but Elspeth still won't tell them her secret. Why she won't let her sister come into the apartment.

There are two twists near the end. One regarding Valentina and Elspeth - a huge misunderstanding which leads to something deadly. We also get to find out Elspeths secret - but nobody knows but Robert.

I can't tell you any thing else about the twists, or the ending of the book without giving the climax away.

It's not usually a book I would read, but I had previously enjoyed the science fiction in The Time Travellers Wife so assumed I would this too. Some parts I found quite dull, especially the scenes in the cemetary. Ironically, they're probably the most important parts of the book, but they weren't something I could personally relate to. I don't find cemeteries interesting so I would find myself reading faster through those parts.

I didn't find all of the characters and their relationships believable either. Any young 21 year old girl could make friends with a middle aged obsessive compulsive, but to think of him romantically in any sense - especially as is described in the book - isn't realistic to me. Neither was Robert and Valentinas friendship.

Despite this, I still enjoyed the story. I was compelled to read on from the very first chapter, eager to find out the secret. I also wanted to see what would happen with the twins and how they would progress in London, far away from their own parents.

The supernatural aspect was also appealing to me. I have always enjoyed ghost stories and even though this one wasn't intended to be scary, it made for enjoyable reading. I especially enjoyed the introduction of 'The Kitten of Death' and it's untimely departure.

Overall I would recommend this book to people who enjoy science fiction, ghost stories or anything related to the paranormal. Also if you enjoyed Niffeneggers previous novel, you will probably like this one too.

If you're an avid chick-lit fan, it's definitely not for you.


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1 comment:

SarahMummy said...

I read this book a few years ago when it first came out and loved it! I'm not a ghost or sci-fi fan, but there was something entrancing about it.
Found you at Catchasinglethought book linky!