Tag Archives: Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger (Vintage Books, 2010)

Her Fearful Symmetry

Many years ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife, which has been widely reviewed, receiving mass critical acclaim; but, having read several negative reviews of Niffenegger’s follow-up novel, I wanted to read it in the hope of producing something a little more complimentary. Unfortunately, I will only be able to do that to an extent.

Her Fearful Symmetry seemed so promising from the outset; a family feud continues in the afterlife as Elspeth leaves her flat (adjacent to Highgate Cemetery, London) to the twin daughters of her estranged twin sister, Edie, who currently reside in Chicago.

Initially, I was excited to see various examples of fairy-tale imagery, akin to that of Alice’s fantasy world, particularly in relation to the contrasting “mirror” twins, Valentina and Julia. However, this never fully materialises, as only fleeting magical allusions are made throughout the novel.

This pretty much sums up Her Fearful Symmetry as a whole: incomplete, rushed and lacking that special “something”, which was more than present in Niffenegger’s previous  novel The Time Traveler’s Wife.

There is, nonetheless, another interesting storyline, revolving around Marijke and her husband Martin, whose OCD drives her back to Holland; however, even this emotional story is concluded rather abruptly and anticlimactically.

Audrey Niffenegger’s effortless prose, and her expert knowledge of Highgate Cemetery (obtained by volunteering there herself as a tour guide), certainly create a beautifully gothic setting for this novel. I just feel that it needed more time, nurturing and definitely more pages, in order to carefully round up these well-crafted, interweaving plots.

I guess this is why I try to avoid reading multiple novels by a single author, especially if he/she has already produced what I would consider a “classic”. Nonetheless, I do have faith in Niffenegger, and I feel that she will impress with her next full-length novel.

I sympathise with her as an author, because of the mountainous challenge she had to face in attempting to live up to her ground-breaking debut novel. I believe that to produce one masterpiece, like The Time Traveler’s Wife, is an outstanding achievement, which I hope will be recognised in the near future, through its publication as a “classic”.

It would, however, be a momentous, yet extremely difficult, feat for an author to overcome the “second novel syndrome” and go on to produce multiple classics, deservedly cementing his/her name in literary history for centuries to come.

3 Books

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Filed under Drama, Romance

One Day, David Nicholls (Hodder, 2010)

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One Day

Dex & Em; Em & Dex. The couple get together on 15th July in 1988, the night of their graduation. On the same date, over the next 20 years, we visit the two protagonists in a non-linear, and almost epistolary, narrative style, reminiscent of Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Dexter Mayhew, now a television presenter, lives a cavalier lifestyle and thrives upon a cocktail of sexual affairs, drugs and alcohol. As a reader, one of the most difficult decisions will be whether or not to feel sympathy for Dexter, who finds difficulty in dealing with the pressure of fame and the eventual fall into obscurity.

Hard-working Emma Morley battles confidence and self-belief in her dream of becoming a successful writer; meanwhile, she finds work as a primary school teacher and has an unfortunate string of hopeless boyfriends.

You will find yourself desperately hoping that Emma and Dexter will be together, a couple who are simply meant for each other. Nicholls’ writing expertise shines through in this masterpiece, which will tug at your heart strings and leave you with a tear in your eye. By the way, try to avoid watching the movie adaptation beforehand, in order to avoid spoiling the twists and turns of this emotionally turbulent novel.

Nicholls more than establishes himself as a master of romance fiction with One Day, simultaneously displaying his great sense of humour, which will have you laughing out loud. This is more than can be said for Ian, one of Emma’s boyfriends, and a relentlessly awful comedian.

I feel that One Day would have benefited from a more consistent use of the present tense; at times, the story lost its emphasis, whilst the flow of the normally effortless narrative was disrupted, as a result of it slipping into the past tense. Nonetheless, this is one of the finest romantic-comedy novels of the century, which, in the style of Nick Hornby, and High Fidelity in particular, also gives us an educative look into British life in the 90s. One Day – original, hilarious and heartbreaking – is destined to become a classic.

4.5 books

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Filed under Comedy, Romance