Friday, October 29, 2010
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
In reading numerous reviews on Her Fearful Symmetry, I have found that the novel has a love/hate relationship with its readers. While some people find it to be a beautiful piece of literature, others simply abhor it.
I fall into the latter category.
Her Fearful Symmetry IS beautifully written, but it's the story I hate.
The novel is about two twin women named Julia and Valentina who inherit an apartment in England upon the death of their aunt Elspeth, who is the estranged twin to their mother, Edie. Before her death, Elspeth made rules to this inheritance that the young twins must follow; first, that they live in the flat one year before they are allowed to sell it and second, that they never allow their parents to set foot in it.
As Julia and Valentina spend their year in the England apartment, they meet and build relationships with their odd and eccentric neighbors and also embark on solving the mystery behind their mother's and aunt's estrangement. Of the eccentric neighbors, one has obsessive-compulsive disorder and the other is a cemetary tour guide.
I will admit Her Fearful Symmetry will really get your brain moving. I cannot stress just how many thoughts ran through my head while reading this novel, trying to figure out the meaning of the story.
The novel is bizarre and I'm still torn between recommending it to readers. It's definitely worth a discussion for a book club, but I wouldn't stock the book on my shelf at home.
Julia and Valentina are intriguing and mysterious at first, but as you get to know them, you learn they are selfish, disgusting, immature, and pathetic. As they go through just the daily routine of life, we see their simple-mindedness, idiocy, and annoying bird-like actions that for some reason bewilder and intrigue the people around them. I doubt as a reader you'll disagree with me.
From the mentions in the synopsis of Her Fearful Symmetry, you would think the girls would be haunted or affected by the characters buried in the cemetary next-door including George Eliot and Karl Marx, but those figures are never talked about. In fact, the novel comes along swimmingly until Niffenegger begins to bring Elspeth's ghost into the story. At that point, Niffenegger loses me for good and I end up being right in thinking nothing will suck me back in. I struggled through the last fourth portion of the novel.
The ending of Her Fearful Symmetry is unfulfilling. I walked away considering further just how wacky, off the wall, and crazy the bond can be between twins. I was also reminded of how twins can be downright evil and thought of the creepy twins in Stephen King's The Shining.
I suppose if I looked really hard, the morals of the story would include letting the people in my life know I appreciate and love them before it's too late, and that life can be really short. Examining these messages on paper, they aren't very unique. The end result of this novel enraged and irritated me.
The Time-Traveler's Wife (2003) is much more interesting. I'm STILL not sure what message Audrey Niffenegger was trying to send with Her Fearful Symmetry. I will admit that the author has me intrigued enough to seek out her future novels, but I won't praise Her Fearful Symmetry.
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