Her Fearful Symmetry
Six years after the phenomenal success of The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger has returned with a spectacularly compelling and haunting second novel set in and around Highgate Cemetery in London.
When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt; they only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers -- with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery. They come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive former 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, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.
Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry: about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life -- even after death.
The Barnes & Noble Review
Fortune's wheel is a harsh chastiser, and those lucky writers who have found heady success with their first books often come crashing down with the second, never to rise again. What's the cause? Do they succumb to nerves from external expectations? Do they secretly feel unworthy? Are our expectations as readers unreasonable? Have they merely been sport for the gods?
The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger's first book, was Cinderella at the ball -- a book that got published without a literary agent behind it, a popular success that was a critical one too. Its distinctive (and, I assume from Niffenegger's acknowledgments, long-steeped) flavor completely eluded the dumb movie made from it. Describing the novel as blending fantasy, science fiction, romance, mild philosophy, and epistolary traditions is technically accurate, but fails to capture its unusual charm: its balance of inevitability and suspense, the importance of conversations both humorous and tersely poignant, the cultural riffs and bookish background of Chicago in the '80s and '90s, the bubble of optimism that buoys it up even in the face of death and decay. It's a great read. Given the weight of expectations (and money) riding on her second book, the conditions were ripe for Niffenegger to dig her own grave. But it turns out that in her second book, Her Fearful Symmetry, Niffenegger gets her characters to do the grisly digging for themselves while she floats out smelling like a rose.
Author: Audrey Niffenegger.
- Publisher: Scribner
- Pages: 406
- Publication Date: 2010-09-29T00:00:01Z
- Edition: Illustrated
- Binding: Paperback
- MSRP: 15
- ISBN13: 9781439169018
- ISBN: 1439169012
- Other ISBN: 9781439169179
- Other ISBN Binding: print
- Language: en_US
- Quality Rating: 1
- "Book cover image may be different than what appears on the actual book."