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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger

I had heard so much about Audrey Niffenegger's book Her Fearful Symmetry, that I had to check it out at the library. After I had read it, I won a copy from the book's Facebook page. How cool is that? A long long while back I had read The Time Traveler's Wife and like it. A bit sad but it was good.

But what to say about this one? I'm so torn. There are good things about the story but I think I was a bit overwhelmed by what I didn't like. That didn't stop me from devouring it though.

(Side note: I was reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman at the same time, just by chance, which was weird since they both center around Highgate Cemetery in London. Neil even acknowledges Audrey at the end of his book. Pretty cool!)

The short and sweet of it:

It's all about twins. At the beginning of the book, Elspeth, who is living in London dies. Her estranged twin, Edie, lives in America with two daughters (twins) of her own. Elspeth's will designates that her 20-year old nieces, Julia and Valentina, stay for a year in her apartment in London. The London apartment is near Highgate Cemetery and has a couple other tenants including Robert, a cemetery researcher and Elspeth's lover. It's about graves, ghosts, twins, mistaken identities, love, obsession, possession, desire....relationships. A good psychological ghost story.

Highgate Cemetery is written as almost the central character. It's got such a history, some famous deceased, and just beautifully creepy decor. I don't want to use photos without permission so just Google for some. So cool. Here's one of the entrance to the Egyptian Avenue in the cemetery (from wikipedia).
Her writing is outstanding. I really feel like I've been to the Highgate. Definitely read this book during the fall/winter months.

Oddly enough, even though this book revolves around a cemetery and ghosts...that wasn't the creepy part of the book. The relationships in this book where SO creepy. First: the whole mystery with why Elspeth and Edie are estranged....yeah weird. Then Valentina becomes romantically involved with someone, I won't tell you who. But VERY creepy. Finally, Valentina and Julia's relationship is creepy. Actually, Valentina and Julia are just creepy in general. Although they are 20 years old, they sound, act, and dress like they are five. The other cover of the book shows them in their typical creepy white garb:
So while the writing and the cemetery is amazing, the characters are just so creepy and irritating. The only character I really liked was the other apartment tenant, Martin, who's OCD tendencies were bizarre but in a weird twisted way, more normal than the rest of the characters' odd quirks.

I think I would have ranked this book higher but I just did NOT like the end. After the slow descriptive pace of most of the book, the ending was WHAM WHAM WHAM: The End. Amazingly, the creepiness of the ending surpassed all the previous creepiness of the book.

I also shouldn't have been reading The Graveyard Book at the same time because I LOVED that one. Maybe I am judging this book to harshly.

Also Reviewed By:

Stuff as Dreams are Made On...

It's All About Me (time)
FyreFly's Book Blog
Bibliolatry at Pajiba
Books I Done Read
At Home With Books
The Literate Housewife Review
S. Krishna's Books
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
All About {n}
Tales of a Capricious Reader
Books on the Brain
Devourer of Books
Stainless Steel Droppings
The Book Lady's Blog
The Book Design Review

Tales of a Capricious Reader
- Author Interview
The Book Lady's Blog - Audrey reads


  1. I really did not like Time Traveler's Wife at all. This fact makes me NOT want to read this new book. I feel about Audrey Niffenegger like I feel about Alice Sebold. Ick.

  2. I agree with you - by the end of the book, I didn't really like any of the characters except Martin. I still liked the book as a whole, though, even though the characters annoyed me.

  3. Wow, so creepy is the word of the day for this book, huh? I don't know if I'll read it. I really enjoyed Time Traveler's Wife, but I agree it was sad and I found the relationship THERE a bit creepy...

  4. I haven't read this yet, but I really want to. Sorry to hear you didn't really enjoy it. My grandfather is buried in Highgate Cemetary - a bit of trivia for you.

  5. This is the 1st Niffenegger book I've read, and did enjoy this book a lot (especially the 1ST 2/3.
    Martin was a favorite, but some was just creepy and weird.,...LOL

    Great review (love the photo of the cemetery.

  6. Most of the reviews that I have read agree with you (and so do I) about Martin being a favorite. Thanks for linking to my review! I'm going to have to google Highgate Cemetery and look at the images because that Egyptian entrance looks pretty neat.

  7. I've got this on my Kindle waiting to be read. I loved TTTW but HFS has gotten mixed reviews, so we'll see ...

  8. I agree with you completely about Martin, he was the only character that I liked as well.

    A novel not having likable characters usually prevents me from really enjoying a book. Also - I found many of the actions of the characters completely unbelievable, especially towards the end.

  9. ANother vote for Martin!

    Creepy is a perfect choice of word to describe this book! I read it in October for the additional creep factor.

    I thought it was extremely well written and yet I didn't love it. Thanks for linking to my review!


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