Monday, August 10, 2009

Review #4: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Now this book I was very excited to read. I was pretty confident in the author and the story to know that it would be an easy recommend for the readers in my life.

Niffenegger knows how to weave together a complicated story. The Time Traveler's Wife was evidence of that. Though her first novel was certainly dark and layered and sad at times, it still felt like it had hope. Her Fearful Symmetry doesn't leave the reader full of warm fuzzies. But it does fill you with a certain feeling of love and a power of connection.

The book has many characters and I would say they all hold a leading role. But I will start with the twins. Julia and Valentina are American twins who inherit a flat in London given to them by their aunt, Elspeth. Elspeth herself was a twin to Edie, the mother of Julia and Valentina.

Julie and Valentina are mirror twins and extremely connected to one another, though, as we find out, very different. Julia jumps at the chance to live in the flat where as Valentina is more reserved. Their parents are not to set foot in the flat, explicitly laid out in Elspeth's will. Turns out Edie and Elspeth had many secrets buried long ago.

Once they arrive in London, the twins are consumed by the surroundings and people that were a part of their aunt's life. The flat overlooks the Highgate Cemetery and is home to many eccentric characters. Robert, Elspeth's lover; Martin, a brilliant man suffering from OCD and Marijke, his devoted wife. You also get a glimpse of the staff from the cemetery and the history of those buried there.

When I say I didn't get warm fuzzies from this book, I mean that it had a very strong gothic feel. The characters are dark, lonely, flawed, sad, brilliant and tragic, all at the same time. Though throughout you do not feel bothered by them or sorry for them, you simply want them to feel peace, in whatever way they can get it. So many secrets are revealed from chapter to chapter that up until the end, I was at a loss for how Niffenegger would settle it.

Along with the secrets of this book, you get a strong sense of connection between all of the characters. Niffenegger writes each relationship beautifully. The love between Robert and Elspeth and the loss he feels when she dies. The fierce connection between Julia and Valentina and the weight it carries on both of them. The exhausting devotion of Marijke and Martin and the disease that burdens them. The nurturing friendship between Julia and Martin. The complicated spark between Valentina and Robert. And last, the powerful sisterhood between Edie and Elspeth and the past they don't want revealed.

I really enjoyed this book. Along with the beautiful writing, it had the perfect setting- London and the Highgate Cemetery. You feel the chill, you imagine the ghosts, you can taste the tea you should be drinking while reading it.

It is much different than The Time Traveler's Wife but it stands alone as an equally powerful novel, perfect for a fall read.

Look for it out in bookstores early September.

Happy Reading!

*red headed book child


Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

The way you describe her writing; the interconnectedness of the characters and the sad, flawed tale between twins reminds me of Wally Lamb in "I know this much is true". I remember talking to someone recently who had never read him. It wasn't you was it?

from Rachel

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Thanks to the publisher for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Kelly said...

I've just recently emailed the publisher regarding the book. I sure hope I can score an early copy for review! If not, I'll do it the old fashioned way and go buy it!

Great review!

Anonymous said...

I'm always searching for the next great read. I tend to devour books in a matter of days... could be an addiction, but everyone has their vices. Thank you for this. I can't wait to read it!