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Her Fearful Symmetry
Her Fearful Symmetry
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt Elspeth Noblin has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the f...  more »
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ISBN-13: 9781439169018
ISBN-10: 1439169012
Publication Date: 9/29/2010
Pages: 406
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.

3.3 stars, based on 207 ratings
Publisher: Scribner
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio CD
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

Chocoholic avatar reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 291 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 25
This is another novel by Audrey Niffenegger, the same author who brought you "The Time Traveller's Wife". If you're expecting a novel as good as, or better than "Time Traveller", then you might want to look elsewhere. First the good: it's a pleasant, non-formulaic story about sisterhood and a ghost and romance. There are a few twists and turns that you won't see coming. It's a nice change of pace to read a novel about a ghost who isn't particularly scary and hear her point of view. Now the bad: the plot moves achingly slowly. This novel is 400 pages and most of the action takes place in the last hundred pages or so. It was a challenge to stick with this book and not put it down. Also, the ending left me scratching my head and wondering "huh?" Finally, the characterizations seem a bit flat and two-dimensional. The reader is not particularly drawn to care for any character. The author seems to spend so much time creating a setting and backstory that she plum forgot to develop the characters adequately. Overall, I would recommend the book, if only for the interesting ghost story, but be prepared to commit to reading 400 pages.
reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
Started off well but story line quickly became very weak. Character development poor. Characters were all completely self-centred and quite one dimensional. Could not recommend to anyone. Disappointing.
reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 289 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10
Since Her Fearful Symmetry is so different in tone, subject, and pace from Audrey Niffenegger's first novel The Time Traveler's Wife, it's unclear whether her fans will enjoy this new offering. A woman dying of leukemia bequeaths her estate, including a flat bordering London's Highgate Cemetery, to her estranged twin sister's daughters, Julia and Valentina. A pair of inseparable 'mirror twins' who have not met their Aunt Elspeth, they now have flush bank accounts and a posh London flat which they must live in for at least a year without their parents allowed inside. On first glance it's an escapist fantasy come true for any young person without any definite life plans, but one the girls accept with some trepidation. Once settled into the flat, they interact with their neighbors. Martin, the upstairs neighbor, is a genius crossword composer whose severe obsessive-compulsive disorder keeps him homebound, unable to chase after his wife Marijke who can no longer stand his lifestyle. Robert who lives downstairs was Elspeth's devoted younger lover, a historian writing a dissertation of Highgate cemetery. The final neighbor they meet is their Aunt Elspeth, whose ghostly spirit is unable to leave the flat.
Niffenegger excels at making quirky characters spark off the page with elegant prose that deals with themes of love, identity, obsession, and loss. I enjoyed the (some may say overly) long introduction--it takes about a year after Elspeth's death for the girls to move to London and meet the other characters. I enjoyed how London—one of my favorite cities—and the cemetery are portrayed. However, I was disappointed in how these characters whom I've grown to love ultimately behave. Their motives and actions in the last third of the book are not supported by earlier character development; it's rushed, kept from the reader, and unexpectedly profoundly sad. Those who didn't enjoy Niffenegger's treatment of time travel might not appreciate her non-religious take on ghosts either. Nonetheless, it's a book I'm glad I read. If I had wanted to throw it against the wall in the end, it is because I had gotten that invested in the writing.
reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 44 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
I am always caught up quickly by Niffenegger's thoughtful prose and interesting characters. I was drawn in and captured by the promise of a truly excellent story, completely willing to believe whatever she asked of me for the sake of the adventure. A set of twins who are long estranged for unknown reasons, one living in England, Elspeth, and one in Chicago, Edy. Only Edy has children, and they are also identical twin girls, Julia and Valentina. Elspeth dies and leaves her flat in London to the twins she has never met with the stipulation that they must live there for a year, and their parents never set foot inside. The girls, incredibly young emotionally for their age (21), close only to eachother, not knowing what else to do with their lives, decide to take on the adventure. The plot involves a cemetery, which borders their new home and employs Robert, the deceased aunt's lover, who also lives in the flat below theirs. The most interesting and likable characters in the book are Martin and Marijke who live above the girl's flat. Martin has OCD that totally controls his life and drives Marijke to leave him suddenly after a long marriage to save her own sanity. I thought I had an idea of where this was all coming together, though the process and most especially the reasoning behind it, tarnished many of the characters I had come to really like. At the heart of most of their desire is selfish gratification, at any, I repeat, ANY cost! Of course these are ghosts we are dealing with here, so maybe the same moral expectations don't apply? Regardless, as the biggest part of the plan is executed, we are asked to stretch past anything that could be remotely believable. It was there I had to ask myself... Really???? Some of the characters were likable enough until then. But I, even MY gullible self, can't keep liking someone who is just plain BAD, ghost or human! I love her writing, her creativity, her imagination, the believability of many of her characters. I love the descriptions of London, the cemetery, the weather, the emotions, the history.
Ultimately, for me, I think this was a story about people getting what they asked for and realizing too late that the price was too high, then having to live (or relive) with the consequences. One very redeeming feature was Martin's ultimate truimph! A whole wonderful book could have been written about Martin himself!
reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 10 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
I absolutely loved The Time Traveler's Wife but I had a very hard time getting into this story. It starts out very slowly, gets better for awhile but unfortunately ends with a whimper. As others have stated the storyline has a lot of potential but I felt like the writer lost interest and just leaves the reader hanging in the end.
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debman avatar reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 77 more book reviews
I loved every part of this exciting novel!! Listened to it while commuting and couldn't wait for my drive to work. The narrator did extremely well going from British to English accents and she had a tone for each character. Love does funny things to us and this supernatural story proves it in many ways. Get ready for a wonderful experience!
reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on
Hard to get into and a little slow but has a very interesting twist that makes it a great book.
reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 13 more book reviews
This book starts out a little odd but you get caught up in it. I was a little leery of reading it since I did not like The Time Travelers Wife. The story is so intriguing because of the twin aspect. The characters are very charming, not to mention quirky! My book club wished that the ending had been different, but I found it to be quite apt.
reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 10 more book reviews
Page turner. The book was excellent, except for the ending. I liked the Time Traveler's Wife better because I felt the characters were more consistent.
robine4206 avatar reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 50 more book reviews
I really wasn't impressed with this book and it just was a little to out there for my taste. It seemed like it took me forever to finish reading it and once I did the ending was a bit of a disappointment. I read the Time Travelers Wife by her also but I'm not so sure I would read anything else she writes. Just not my cup of tea.
reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 17 more book reviews
I couldn't put this book down. I became engrossed with the twins. Through it I came to understand some of the issues that had been plaguing my sister and me, well mostly me, and I could relate with the conflict of wanting to be together and be apart at the same time. I came to love, hate, appreciate, and have a quiet understanding for the characters... And suddenly, it ended the way it did. WHY! All I was left with were more WHY WHY WHYs. It didn't make sense. I feel disappointed and betrayed by the narrator. I didn't understand Elspeth in the last few chapters. I didn't understand why no one sought to put things right. There was an unpleasant sense of resignation about how the story ended for all the characters. What I did love was Highgate Cemetery. I should have gone to visit at least once during the many times I'd been in London. I was spooked by Pere Lachaise 10 years ago, and I swore, no more cemeteries for me, but after reading this book, I want to walk where these characters have been. Seems silly, I know, a bit crazy and fanatic, all for a book. I mean, it's not like visiting Manhattan to seek out Carry Bradshaw's haunts. But I can't help it. The narrator was in love with Highgate, and really, it was the only part of the book that made me part with the book with a good feeling. Now I sit here, typing this review, with a bit of longing.
alterlisa avatar reviewed Her Fearful Symmetry on + 335 more book reviews
I've got to admit, despite the rather lukewarm reviews that this book had received, (and I try not to read too many as I don't want to spoil
the storyline, just get a general feel for the book), I had to get it as it was written by the author of The Time Travelers Wife, my all time favorite of any genre I've read. But the reviewers were right. It was NOT the TTTW! (sigh)
That said, though I felt like I had to struggle at times to stay interested in this book, I was determined to solve the mystery despite feeling like I knew what was going to happen. Let's just say I was right but oh so wrong too! I won't rehash the whole synopsis of the book but in general two girls, twins, inherit a flat in London from their, until now, unknown aunt who is their mom's twin. They must live in the flat for a year before selling it and their parents are restricted from entering it ( I just had to know why Elspeth felt so strongly about this).The younger twins weird, almost incestuous, commitment to one another was a bit unsettling at first but very necessary for the telling of the story. At times I felt like the book was much longer than it was as it dragged on and on (and not in a good way). While the ending was and wasn't a surprise, the journey there was arduous. And the trip IS the most important thing. The characters were fascinating, at first, though at times seemed more like 13 year olds than 20 year olds, and the descriptive locale made me feel I was wandering the streets side by side with the twins. Had I not had such great expectations for it after TTTW, I probably would have enjoyed it more. Definitely a check out of the library or get used (like I did) read. And though I was disappointed in this book, I'll be back for another of Niffenegger's works but will pay more attention to the reviewers.

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