Audrey Niffenegger, Her Fearful Symmetry

I’m one of the rare people who utterly disliked Audrey Niffenegger’s highly touted debut, The Time Traveller’s Wife and so, because everyone who loved that novel seemed to dislike Niffenegger’s second, I felt sure I would feel differently.

I did enjoy Her Fearful Symmetry much more than The Time Traveller’s Wife, but I don’t think I enjoyed it enough to follow Niffenegger’s literary path any farther. A story of ghosts and weird twins, oddly interspersed with random bits of information about Highgate Cemetery, Her Fearful Symmetry had some very nice individual moments, but the characters never felt real to me. They were all constructed to fit into the plot and so Niffenegger could provide us with tidbits of London life and the fruits of her research into the past of Highgate Cemetery. (And, as an aside, her characters’ speech patterns all sounded the same – whether they were 80 year old Londoners or 20 year old Chicagoans. She did try to throw in lots of British-isms like using “skip” for “trash cans” but … they never quite sounded right.) In the end, Her Fearful Symmetry was not so much six characters in search of an author, but a really great setting and some descriptive prose in search of a coherent plot and characters!

(Read from February 18-21, 2010)


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