Review: ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ by Audrey Niffenegger

I loved ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ (who didn’t?!) so couldn’t wait to get stuck into another Niffenegger novel – but I should have waited. And waited. Then waited some more.

Because ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ was just odd.

Warning – spoilers ahead.

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Firstly, the title: I don’t understand what was supposed to be ‘fearful’ about the book. Creepy, yes. Weird, definitely. But twins happen, so why it became such an overawing feature of a novel was unclear. And to be honest, being twins was made into something that should affect the novel way more than it should have been; it didn’t matter at the end of the day with regards to Julia and Valentina, so its necessity was overplayed. And its use with Elspeth and Edie – just ew. Poor Jack.

And Robert – I cannot overstate what an utter creep I felt this man was. Oh, the love of my life has died – I shall attempt a clumsy seduction of her niece/daughter who looks like her even though this is wildly inappropriate and she’s clearly not sure of what she wants. Stalking on a tube, taking young naive girls to odd dates, procreating with the ghost of your dead girlfriend inhabiting said naive girl’s body which – by the by – is also dead girlfriend’s biological daughter…This is a clearly irresistible specimen, who then acts the victim to just solidify what a mollusc he is. Did I mention I didn’t like him?

If I’m honest, I couldn’t tell you what the overriding plot was supposed to be; was it ghostly shenanigans, was it two teens finding their way in a difficult new life, was it a man overcoming his grief and failing…? Not to mention the only plot line that was wonderful but under explored, that of OCD Martin and long-suffering wife Marijke. It was like the ending was a garble of a plot that should have been after nothing happened for the longest time, the whole sequence of events didn’t add together neatly.

That said, I do have to give credit where credit is due; once Valentina’s ridiculous idea of fake dying (oops) was mentioned, the tension ramped up somewhat and I did want to keep reading to find out the outcome (although to give further credit, I figured out what would happen, and more ew followed). The outcome was disappointing, but it was pursuable.

What I did love was Martin’s OCD storyline; what a misused gem this was. How much I loved and rooted for this man who just wanted to love his wife but whose suffering outweighed that love. I wish we could have seen more of his transformation, but because he was neglected his steps back into the world seemed hurried and undernourished, an unfitting reward for his courage.

In all, this was not what I was expecting; a ghostly thriller let down by too many plots, creeps and uncertain decisions.

 

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