Title: Her Fearful Symmetry
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Source: Checked out from the library
R.I.P. V, Book 1
(Let this serve as a warning that this post may turn out to be nothing but a stream of garbledy gook, consisting of lots of “What the…” and “Who the….” and “I KNOW she didn’t!”, simply because those are the sounds I made throughout much of this book. Now that that’s out of the way…)
Although Her Fearful Symmetry has been out for a while now, I was torn between desperately wanting to read it, and not wanting to read it. You see, I loved Time Traveller’s Wife so fiercely that I was worried that nothing could ever compare. In hindsight, it was a silly fear to have. There is no need to even sink so low as to compare the two titles — they are vastly different, and yet both so good in their own right.
Her Fearful Symmetry is a gothic (don’t you just love that word?), compelling story of twins, deceit, death, ghosts, compulsions, lovers, and what happens when you mix them all together and plop them in a flat in London, right behind Highgate Cemetery. I will leave the detailed plot summary to Amazon, but I highly believe that this novel would appeal to lovers of romance, mystery, horror, fantasy, anglophiles…just about everyone.
And the writing, oh my….the writing. I’m usually a very dialogue driven reader- my concentration tends to run amuck when faced with page after page of description. But the balance between descriptive and dialogue writing is perfectly executed in Her Fearful Symmetry. And honestly, the emotions that Audrey Niffenegger is capable of wrenching from the reader is unlike anything that I can recall encountering elsewhere in fiction. Take, for example, this excerpt:
“The nurse found them half an hour later. She stood quietly, taking in the sight of the tall youngish man curling around the slight, dead, middle-aged woman. Then she went to fetch the orderlies.
Outside, London was waking up. Robert lay with his eyes closed, listening to the traffic on the high street, footsteps in the corridor. He knew that soon he would have to open his eyes, let go of Elspeth’s body, sit up, stand up, talk. Soon there would be the future, without Elspeth. He kept his eyes shut, breathed in her fading scent and waited.”
And that was on the second page! Of course I had to keep reading, and find out who Elspeth was, how she died, who was the young man curled up with her, what was up with the age difference, etc. etc.
There has been much talk around the blogosphere about the characters in this book – specifically, the fact that they are very unlikeable at times. And I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. (See earlier reference -“I KNOW she didn’t!!”) We travelled out of town for some family celebrations this past weekend, and yet I stuck this unwieldy hardcover in my bag and snuck it out every chance I got. Even at the risk of seeming rude, I could not pull myself from this story. When I said it was compelling, I meant exactly that – I literally couldn’t put it down. And that, to me, is the sign of a truly excellent read. I eagerly await Audrey Niffenegger’s next work of art, because really, that’s what she creates. Art in the form of words that have the ability to take one’s breath away. Or, at least, mine.