17 March 2010

Book Banter -- Her Fearful Symmetry

Title: Her Fearful Symmetry
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Genre: Literary fiction
Length: 401 pages
Where Word Nerd’s Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: When Elspeth dies, she leaves her London flat to her twin nieces, Valentina and Julia with strict instructions that their parents – including their mother, her twin, Edie – are not allowed to visit them there. She also leaves behind a cast of crazy neighbors, including her lover, Robert Fanshaw and Martin, a crossword puzzle genius who suffers from terrible OCD. Valentina and Julia come to London to fulfill the terms of their aunt’s will and discover she has left behind more than just a flat – Elspeth seems to be haunting the place, working her ways to still bring about what she wants. As the two girls struggle to understand London and their family and become adults in their own right, Elspeth’s plans unfold long after her death.

Banter Points: Her Fearful Symmetry isn’t The Time Traveler’s Wife. That said, it’s a book that stands well on its own merit, but will forever be in the shadow of Niffenegger’s tremendous debut novel. Like Time Traveler’s Wife, Symmetry is infused with just a touch of the paranormal or science fiction (it really is a ghost story at its heart). Like other great literary novels, its sense of place is also so tremendous that Highgate Cemetery nearly becomes its own character. And with Elspeth’s haunting, her flat takes on a persona as well.

Bummer Points: Symmetry suffers from a bit of character overload. Word Nerd was most interested Robert Fanshaw, the bereaved lover, but his world of academic associates got cluttered. Likewise with the side story of OCD Martin. He’s a great character, but while he plays one crucial piece, much of his story feels like it was written to justify him being in the novel for that one scene.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you enjoyed Time Traveler’s Wife, you’ll likely enjoy this one, though for different reasons. This is actually a great introductory book for a reader wanting to get more into paranormals but not knowing if they like the genre. The paranormal is woven in so closely with the plot, at times, you forget it’s there.

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