I loved The Time Traveller’s Wife so when I heard that Audrey Niffenegger had a new book out, I was excited at the prospect of reading Her Fearful Symmetry. Then, before I had a chance to buy the book, I read some reviews that put me off by suggesting it didn’t live up to the earlier novel. So, with many other contenders on my ‘must read’ list, it was several months before Her Fearful Symmetry crossed my mind again. Thankfully, I bought it and over the last couple of days I’ve had the chance to read it.
It is quirky, complicated story involving twins, identity and the supernatural with Highgate Cemetry (is there a pun in ‘symmetry’?) playing a central role. The reader is asked to suspend disbelief in a novel that is well written but where the plot is perhaps not as strong as it might have been. That said, my immediate reaction, having just finished American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, was one of enormous relief such as only comes when you can allow yourself to relax knowing you are in the hands of a trusted and accomplished writer. It’s not that The American Wife was a bad book, but it was a book that to me seemed to drift and lose its way. It is pure joy to find a book that you just don’t want to put down and, for me at least, Her Fearful Symmetry is in that category.
Yes it’s true that the ending is perhaps not satisfactory but few other writers have Niffenegger’s ingenuity of imagination. She startles but she does so with the finesse of literary talent making her a joy to read. Yes, this novel takes a turn that may not appeal – although to be fair, it has something in common with the literary novels of a similar genre that it alludes to in the text. But whether or not you like the twist of the tale, it is an engaging read. I, for one, am looking forward to Ms Niffenegger’s next book.