Book Reviews

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry is the most recent book by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife‘.
Identical twins Valentina and Julia inherit their’s aunt Elspeth’s apartment and belongings in London on the condition that they do not allow their parents Edie (Elspeth’s identical twin) and Jack into the apartment and live there for a year. Elspeth and Edie have been estranged for years and the twins haven’t known their aunt while growing up in America. They are obviously surprised to hear from their aunt’s solicitor but agree to go to London to spend a year in their aunt’s house by themselves at the age of 21 hoping to find out some of her secrets.
However, the twins are in for a surprise. Their aunt Elspeth has not left. Although she is buried with the rest of the Noblin family in Highgate Cemetery (which is just across the apartment), her ghost still exists in the apartment. As the twins try and figure out their neighbours, Robert who was Elspeth’s partner, and Martin, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (and possibly agoraphobia in my opinion) and doesn’t leave his apartment. they also have to deal with living by themselves, understanding themselves and attempting to communicate with Elspeth.
The relationship between Valentina and Julia is explored. Valentina dreams of doing things on her own but is smothered by Julia, the dominant and bossy twin. Valentina’s efforts to have a relationship with Robert and a life of her own are tested. And Julia, who starts feeling neglected and resentful at Valentina not needing her, tries to help Martin. The world of the supernatural is also explored through Elspeth and how she learns to communicate with the twins and Robert.
Does Valentina manage to escape from Julia’s shadow?
Do we find out why Elspeth decided to leave everything to twins she had never met?
Does Julia ever figure out what to do with her life?
And can you fool around with the supernatural and live to talk about it?
My view on the book: Meh. It was not great. It was an easy read and kept you interested but was kind of predictable as it got near the end. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters apart from Martin. Julia was too bossy and annoying for me. Valentina was too timid and too anxious…I just wanted to shake some sense into her! Robert was all right but it was a bit weird that he went out with Valentina after Elspeth’s death. Almost had an incestuous feel to it. Elspeth was too mean and cold. The twins’ parents were too distant.
If you’ve read the book, let me know your thoughts.
If you haven’t read the book, well, don’t rush to get it. You can wait till it’s on sale. Or borrow it from the library.

My rating:

Until next time,
***This has been cross-posted at Bond with Books***

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  • Nu
    24 March 2010 at 4:34 am

    hey the cover looks good though…if I would not have read this review and saw the book I would have been tempted to buy it only to regret later may be 🙂

  • Smita
    24 March 2010 at 4:40 am

    I did the smart thing, read it in the book shop 😉

    I found the book readable and intriguing. There were portions when the book pulls you in it. But I was hugely let down by the ending.

    Have written a review here 🙂

  • Shweta
    24 March 2010 at 4:51 am

    I actually liked this book. Though I did have problems with certain story treatment , I thought the mystery aspect was done well . I reviewed it a while back so I am leaving you a link .

  • Titaxy
    24 March 2010 at 9:38 am

    Hmm I haven’t read Time Traveler’s wife, and reading this review isn’t really pushing me to try reading this author. Maybe when I’m too bored I will pick it up from a library if I find nothing better. 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    26 March 2010 at 4:26 am

    Well, you never know though Nu…some people seemed to have liked it. You may end up liking it…don’t take my word for it! 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    26 March 2010 at 4:28 am

    That was smart of you! I read it for my book club meet (we meet in a couple of weeks and I’m curious to see what they thought) but yeah…while it was readable and made you wonder about the secret, it was a let down at the end. Did you like the characters?? I found I couldn’t like most of them. And y’know how Valentina is described as the twin most people like because she is fragile — I could not stand her!!! Annoying as hell!!!

  • Psych Babbler
    26 March 2010 at 4:29 am

    Which parts did you have a problem with? I found it readable but it was a disappointment. And I didn’t go with extra-high expectations or anything…

  • Psych Babbler
    26 March 2010 at 4:34 am

    Lol…good idea. TTW was not bad but not as great as it was made out to be imho…but this one to me was worse than TTW.

  • couchpapaya
    27 March 2010 at 12:17 am

    Hi, Just came across your blog when looking for reviews of this book. I agree, meh covers it completely!! I thought Martin and Marijke were the best characters and am surprised that most reviews think so too .. I mean it cannot be good for the story if the secondary characters are more sympathetic than the principals. As for the rest, I was so irritated by the sheer stupidity of everyone in the last bit of the book I almost threw it against the wall. I thought Robert was a very weak-willed, spineless character (maybe naive) … and the whole romance with Valentina was completely off. I admit I had very high expectations so maybe I’m left feeling more disappointed than others.

  • Psych Babbler
    28 March 2010 at 3:34 am

    Martin and Marijke were indeed the most likeable and realistic characters. You actually hit the nail on the head re Robert…spineless! I continued to wonder why the hell he couldn’t say something in the end….and yes, towards the end, you just wanted to smack the three of them!