26 December, 2013

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

From Goodreads: Audrey Niffenegger's spectacularly compelling second novel opens with a letter that alters the fate of every character. Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest in college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. From a London solicitor, the enclosed letter informs Valentina and Julia that their English aunt Elspeth Noblin, whom they never knew, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions to this inheritance: that they live in it for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the estranged Elspeth and Edie, their mother.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast and ornate Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Stella Gibbons and Karl Marx are buried. Julia and Valentina come to know the living residents of their building. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder; Marijke, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps - their aunt.

Thoughts: Well, hmmm, interesting. Like many, I loved The Time Traveler's Wife. It was such a beautiful love story and Niffengger is a lyrical writer. I'd been warned by many that this was very different and they were right.
Niffengger's writing is most probably what kept me going. She is mesmerising to read. The story however just kept getting stranger and stranger and the characters more and more inconsistent and unlikable. While I found the premise of The Time Traveler's Wife plausible, the further Her Fearful Symmetry wnet, the less believable I found it. I just think if Niffengger had taken it in a different direction or even changed the motivations  or actions of a couple of the characters it would have been a very different book. Instead I think she had an idea of where she wanted to go and continued (unsuccessfully) to force the story to that framework.

Chanllenges: Ebook Challenge