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Her Fearful Symmetry Hardcover – 1 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Scribner Hardcover Edition edition (1 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224085611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224085618
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 3.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (386 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 269,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Audrey Niffenegger is an exceptionally creative writer and visual artist who has achieved enormous success in both worlds. Her debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, has sold nearly five million copies worldwide and has been translated into thirty-three languages to date. A Richard & Judy book club choice in the UK, it has been a huge bestseller all round the world. In the Daily Telegraph's readers' poll of the 'Top 50 Books of All Time' it appeared at no. 11. Niffenegger is also the author of two 'novels-in-pictures', The Three Incestuous Sisters(2005) and The Adventuress (2006), both published by Cape.

Her graphic novel The Night Bookmobile was recently serialized in the Guardian and will be published soon on the Cape Graphic list.

A Chicago native, Niffenegger received her MFA in Printmaking and Drawing from Northwestern University. Her art has been widely exhibited in the United States and is in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress and Harvard University's Houghton Library.

Product Description


`A hot contender for the book of the year' --Red

`...(Niffenegger) constructs a taut mystery ...It's no small achievement that the revelations are both organic and completely unexpected'
--The New Yorker

"Delicious and deadly" --Yorkshire Evening Post

`a powerful and beautiful exploration of the relationships between the living and dead...Niffenegger's writing has lost none of its emotional power'

"Chillingly good" --Marie Claire

"There's no mistaking Niffenegger's originality...She's a real rarity: at once a good writer and a genuine obsessive" --Evening Standard

"Stylish, easy to read... with a dark, delicious plot which has several neat twists" --Scotsman

"A multi-layered, absorbingly nuanced love story...Beautifully constructed and unfurling with exquisite tragedy..." --Easy Living

"Delicious prose...She lays out her story in delectable, textual pictures...a powerful, beautifully written ghost story"

`A ghostly love story and a lovely ghost story.' --Tatler

"This is a rich, involving novel..." -- The Times

"Niffenegger's books are fabulously left field, striking an unlikely balance between romance and fantasy. A brilliantly beautiful book."
-- Glamour magazine

"...Niffenegger rarely reverts to stereotypes when creating her characters...they are always interesting..."
"...an emotional depth rarely found in ghost stories." --Sunday Herald

"Niffenegger's story is written with a lightness of touch and with a great eye for the oddities of human behaviour". --Daily Telegraph

"a nicely atmospheric book".
--Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

The brilliant new novel from the author of the massive international bestseller, The Time Traveler's Wife

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Quicksilver TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
...Then I could go back and visit myself and make sure I don't bother reading 'Her Fearful Symmetry'. 'The Time Traveller's Wife' is one of my all time favourite books, but this novel is as bad as that was good.

Things start well, and I thought I was in for another treat. Reading Niffenegger's prose is effortless. She has a an exquisite way of paring down emotions, without becoming bogged down in flowery language. The main emotions that run through this book are love, grief and the claustrophobia of life.

The novel centres around 'mirror' twins, Valentina and Julia, who are identical but inverted. They inherit a London flat from their Aunt (Elspeth), who is the estranged twin of their mother (Edie). The reasons for this estrangement are 'dark', 'mysterious' and - oh yes - 'wholly predictable'. In the flat below where the twins live, resides Robert, their Aunt's former lover, and a historian with an interest in Highgate Cemetery. The third resident in the block, and by far the most interesting character in the book, is Martin, a reclusive crossword-setter, whose wife has recently left him, unable to cope with his OCD. If the book had been more about these two, I think it may have been a many-splendoured thing.

Most of the book follows the twins as they explore London, free from their parents, and offers an interesting perspective on the life of identical twins. If you have spent your entire life together, how do you gain independence from one another, without shattering a unique relationship? Not being a twin myself, I have no idea who accurate a depiction this is, but I found it thought-provoking and moving. It's a shame the same can't be said for the rest of the book.
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130 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Bex on 29 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
I suppose it was always going to be difficult to follow The Time Traveler's Wife. But frankly, even judging this book on its own merits and ignoring Audrey Niffenegger's previous novel this book is strangely lacking.

On the face of it the Her Fearful Symmetry has potential. It's the story of a ghost (Elspeth) haunting her old flat which she's left to her twin nieces (Julia and Valentina), while hiding a deep, dark secret. This sets the scene for what could become a dark, sinsister ghost story, but actually seems to be a weird, convoluted, supernatural soap opera which feels like it's building up to something, never really makes good on that promise and then sort of trails off towards the end, leaving the reader feeling largely indifferent.

There's very little believability in any of the characters. We are told that Elspeth's lover Robert is grief-stricken, but I don't think it actually comes across to the reader that well. In fact on the whole, grief is depicted very weakly throughout the entire novel so that the characters come across as fairly vague, shallow and two-dimensional and impossible to relate to.

Nevertheless, Her Fearful Symmetry starts off with promise. Elspeth dies and becomes a ghost and then the twins move into the haunted flat and set about finding their feet in London in a slightly aimless way. Julia makes friends with the man in the flat upstairs, Martin, who sets crosswords and has OCD. Robert meanwhile spends his days stalking the twins, before finally meeting them and taking a liking to Valentina. It's all a bit odd and truth be told a bit dull and flat, but then they discover Elspeth's haunting the flat and I started to think it might be going somewhere.

And then it just gets silly. Elspeth's deep, dark secret is frankly laughable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ingaborga on 11 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
This book had great promise. A dark, sinister tale involving fragile, ethereal twins, a haunted Victorian house, a cemetery and deep dark secret - it had all the makings of a hugely satisfying example of the modern Gothic. Audrey Niffenegger has impressive pedigree - her first novel, The Time Travellers' Wife, with its winning blend of whimsy and was the book du jour a few years ago, never far from the top of the bestseller list, and the darling of book clubs across the country.

The story, in different hands, could have been a huge success. Two identical twins, Julia and Valentina, are bequeathed a flat overlooking Highgate Cemetary by their dead aunt Elspeth (who happens to be their mother's identical twin sister) on the condition that their parents never set foot in the flat. The reason for this stipulation, the love affair between Robert and Elspeth, and of course the history of the cemetery play an enormous part in the book. So what went wrong? Well the language for a start. Niffenegger fell in to the trap of giving all the English characters that overly quaint, old fashioned dialogue used by American writers when they want to create a bit of local colour. The idea of London as a place where people travel by minicabs on a regular basis and the tube stations have ridiculous names. Then there was the subplot of Martin and Marijke - a sweet love story of the girl leaves boy, boy overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles, boy gets girl back genre which was easily my favourite part of the book, but completely, jarringly out of place. And, of course, the deep, dark secret and the actions taken by Elspeth and Valentina which completely fail to live up to the darkness Niffenegger spends so much time hinting at.
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