EPS Review #212 - Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel , by Audrey Niffenegger, Jonathan Cape 2009, 390pp.

Right after reading The Time Traveler's Wife, P was eager for me to do so. Similarly, she was hopping up and down for me to read Fearful Symmetry, but not for the same reasons, as it turned out.

I enjoyed the story of twin American girls inheriting their aunt's flat near Highgate Cemetery. The cast of characters is small and contrived, and there is a ghostly element, but the writing and characterisation are very pleasant, and charged with a dreamy romance.

But suddenly, in the last part of the book, one twin and the ghost hatch a very stupid plan, and the novel veers into Stephen King territory. My reading speed quadrupled, as I no longer read for the prose, but to see if the idiotic plot repaired itself. It doesn't.

It turned out that P just wanted me to read it in case the plot made any more sense to me, in that "here, this tastes bad, you try it" kind of way. I ranted on my favorite topic of mainstream writings abusing genre-fiction tropes, but P just sees the book as a ghost story, plain and simple. I think speed is an important element of the suspension of disbelief: in movies and thrillers you do not notice the logical problems until after the finish. In a slow book, these flaws drop you right out of play.

Emily wrote: I have been fearful of reading Niffenegger mark 2 as I simply adored The Time T's Wife. After reading your review, I don't know what to do now. I might have to skip it.

Tim wrote: Our favourite writer, but not much of a recommendation!

P replied: Definitely read it. Erich is being curmudgeonly. I loved it. While I did have a question about the ending it was in no way a case of "this tastes bad, you taste it" I think you will enjoy the characters and how well she has brought London and Highgate to life. A wonderful weekend read.

Lucy wrote: I have recently read Her Fearful Symmetry - and wondered if this was the nearest thing to science fiction that I would find myself reading. I enjoyed the characters and even the story to a point but I thought the ending was totally ridiculous!! It felt as if Nifffenegger had lost the plot!

Laurie wrote: i didnt read it but so agree with your comment about suspending disbelief in movies and trash books vs real or near real lit