Monday, November 16, 2009

Dread Hand, Eye

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoledBoots
Volume 10, Number 2

Her Fearful Symmetry
Audrey Niffenegger

If you've read The Time Traveler's Wife, you already know this amazing author's penchant for the eerie. As 'eerie' goes, her new offering, Her Fearful Symmetry, doesn't disappoint.

Elspeth Noblin, the novel's most influential character, dies in the first couple of pages. She leaves her London flat, overlooking Highgate Cemetery, to her two American nieces: twins, as Elspeth herself was a twin.

The twins, Julia and Valentina, move to London with all their baggage and.....well, baggage. Their relationship - like that of their aunt and mother - is one of the defining forces of the novel. It moves the plot and determines the fate of the two girls, who at the beginning of the book are not so much sisters, as one person split between two bodies.

When the twins get to London, they find that though she is dead, their aunt has never really left her flat at all...

Haunting is a difficult plot point - it is so often written with a heavy hand, resulting in improbably corporeal spirits, or sensationalist plot lines high on spook-factor. Audrey Niffenegger handles it carefully, gently bringing the reader around. Her ghost is a nicely drawn blend of the humdrum and the mysterious.

The whole thing is very deftly written. Niffenegger managed to suspend my disbelief throughout the novel, and in fact (though I am loth to admit it) to smoothly trick me into liking somebody that I shouldn't have - no mean feat considering how many books I have read and dissected. At this stage in my reading career it takes a good bit of sleight of hand to get a villain past me...Audrey did it brilliantly.

Do read this book if you get a chance. It's quite different to The Time Traveler's Wife - less sexual for one thing (darn), and in a totally different style. There is a lot of good writing, clever plot points, and well-disguised metaphor.

HSB Highly Specialised Book Rating System
Her Fearful Symmetry gets:

Reread? Definitely.
Given to Others? Yes.
Bookplate? Yes.



Valerie said...

Thanks! It's on my nightstand.

BTW, thanks for the recommendation of Three Day Road. Did you know that Joseph Boyden wrote a next book titled Through Black Spruce? It is also on my nightstand, and looks very promising.

Gena said...

I've been listening to this on audiobook, and am 1 disc away from the end. So far, I love it! In addition to the great story, the woman who reads it is fantastic. If someone needs a book to listen to, this one is definitely worth a trip to the library.

kate said...

Enjoyed The Time Traveller's Wife very much. I'll have to add this one to my list, it sounds interesting!

lizbon said...

Sounds like she passed the dreaded 2nd novel/album/other creative endeavor test.

Emily said...

I've pretty much universally heard great things about this book, and I'm happy to hear that the audiobook is a good one (thanks, Gena!). Now I just have to figure out how to spell "Niffenegger."