Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I have been a slow reader this week.  I have finally finished Audrey Niffenegger's sophormore(ish) novel "Her Fearful Symmetry", and to my surprise I feel apathetic to having read it.  I was eagerly awaiting the release of her second book for years, and then when it came out I hesitated to read it.  I don't why I hesitated.  It might have something to do with my Proust reading theory (more on that, later), or I might be able to blame it on an already clogged up reading list.  I first bought it when it was in hardcover, but sold it to Half Price Books when I was hard up for money.  I kept returning to the book, though, over and over again, wondering and plotting out when it would be that I would read it.  The time came when I borrowed it from my mother in law, after I saw it sitting in a pile next to her couch.  She highly recommended it, I was excited to begin.

And I did, and I initially loved it for the same reasons that I loved the Time Traveller's Wife-- the pacing was very nice, the overall feel of the novel was well thought out and the imagery and language was good.  Pop-bubblegum-y with a side of sugar, but good.  The novel felt like it had been dipped in light violet and pink dye and everything was drenched with color.

Color was something that stood out immensely in her novel; as were clothes, shoes, food textures, stuff that is utterly mundane.  The descriptions, though, didn't enhance the mundane and lift it into a more delicate and/or vibrant world.  This becomes a problem when the characters start venturing around London and Highgate Cemetery:  so much of London and the cemetery is foreign to a vast majority of her readers, but somehow she manages to forget to render it into life-- in other words, I don't really care what Mouse and Julia are wearing, but I would love to know what the Tubes were like, and more about the cemetery, and what does Tracey Philips' store look like?


Things go smoothly, albeit slightly syrup-y, up until Part Three when things go haywire for me.  Without giving anything away (like Reading Rainbow said, "Don't Take My Word For It") the novel became riddled with major issues for me.  The fictional dream was, in a way, totally ruined.  There was not enough ground rules set up for the way characters that were dead could act and there were not enough clearly defined emotional rules for the characters-- in the sense that arbitrary emotional muck surfaced very quickly toward the end of the novel and was not resolved.  Nothing is really resolved as far as the book goes.  It felt as though the writer didn't know how to end things and began to write frantically just to get to some end-- and it was an alright end-- but it was also a let down.  I still really like her writing style and I think that she is a really fun and inventive fiction writer.  I think that she just got some sophomore blues on this novel.

1 comment:

  1. I think your review is right on. I felt quite similar about this book. I was quite excited for it, bought it newly released, came home and delved in. The beginning was promising, but I also finished it feeling let down. I take into account that The Time Traveler's Wife was phenomenal and hard to follow, not only for the writer but as readers. I appreciate she gave us an interesting tale, despite the uninspired ending.

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