Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

And here we have the follow-up book by the author of The Time Traveller’s Wife (great book, not so great film) and it’s a strange one. Review without spoilers follow…Book is about a twin who dies and in her will, leaves her flat to her sister’s twin daughters. Other people live in the block of flats, including the dead person’s lover and an OCD chap. A cat also turns up. Every one of them is written as quite a flawed, almost unlikeable person.

On page 1, the twin, Elspeth, dies and then stays away until page 63 out of a 387 page novel. This is not a fast paced book. In fact, if you think Defying Gravity moves slowly, this book will torture you. But I’m assuming it’s meant to be a character study, and if so it’s an interesting one because there isn’t a likeable character in the book. In fact, only the OCD chap has any real degree of sympathy.

Elspeth eventually comes back – partially – and appears to be quite the friendly ghost and the reactions to there being a ghost are fairly decent, with the obvious worry over ‘is she watching us all the time?’ and the book plods on with the ex falling for one of the new twins, the twins growing apart and OCD man trying to conquer his OCD.

There’s little bits of incident hung together under the guise of plot, but nothing that would get the pulse racing – even the first of the so-called twists that has been mentioned everyone online – is fairly easily guessed, the second is too and the third should be straight as well if you’ve noticed the title and twin behaviours.

The last 100 or so pages have more meat to them bones (har!) and it comes together decently but not spectacularly with a slight bit of open-endedness left for the reader (or rather a guessing ending).

It’s an overlong book and could easily have had 50-100 pages chopped out without loss, but I wonder if – due to the success of the TT Wife – that an editor would be afraid to chop anything and upset the writer?

Is it worth buying? I’d say get the paperback or put it on the Xmas list for someone to get you. It’s a decent read, it’s just not worth the hardback price. I don’t grudge it though as I bought the TT Wife in paperback and would happily have paid more for that one, so to me this is karma balancing things out.

NOTE: if anyone else who has read this wants to post spoilers in the comments section, feel free. I’m going to do that in the first post with a thought or two about what happened to the character on the last page and some just desserts…