Review: “Her Fearful Symmetry,” Audrey Niffenegger

Rating:  4/5

This is going to be a short review, almost by necessity; there is very little that I can say without delving into spoilers.  Her Fearful Symmetry is the second novel by Audrey Niffenegger; her first was The Time-Traveler’s Wife.  It centers around twins, Julia and Valentina, who inherit their aunt’s flat in London under the conditions that they live there for a year before selling it, and that their parents never enter it.

It’s hard for me to imagine an author writing two more different books than The Time-Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry.  I enjoyed both of them, almost equally, although of course for different reasons.  Her Fearful Symmetry was unique to me in that it has a distinctly Victorian Gothic feel, but it is set entirely in the present.  The setting has a lot to do with that – the flat that the twins inherit borders London’s Highgate Cemetery.  It took nearly 150 pages before I was invested in the plot, although I was intrigued from the beginning.  The plot is very character-driven, and the characters are complex enough for that to work well.  The narration is third-person omniscient, with enough of each character’s thoughts included to drive their motivations.  It is extremely well-crafted and enjoyable; I highly recommend it (although I will say that I strongly dislike the title).  For comparison, the feel of it reminded me quite a bit of The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Satterfield, although there are minimal plot and character similarities.

As an aside, for my fellow “Doctor Who” fans:  The Time-Traveler’s Wife was one of Steven Moffat’s inspiration for the second-series (since the reboot) episode “The Girl in the Fireplace.”  There is an acknowledgement of that within the story of Her Fearful Symmetry.

 

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One thought on “Review: “Her Fearful Symmetry,” Audrey Niffenegger

  1. I really liked this one as well. I feel like it didn’t come together as well as The Time-Traveler’s Wife did, but I really enjoy Niffenegger’s writing. I know she’s an artist and has a lot of other kinds of projects, but I selfishly wish that she’d write more novels.

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