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Her Fearful Symmetry Paperback – Jul 6 2010

26 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada; First Thus edition (July 6 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307397467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307397461
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description



"An awesomely good read." Chatelaine

"Quirkily observed and rich on every level: plot, character, mood and theme.... She conjures a memorable world, and grants most of her characters happy endings, though perhaps not the ones they would have asked for." The Globe and Mail

"Entertaining.... The reader is pleasantly carried along by the author’s ability to create credible characters and her instinctive narrative gifts.... The most powerful parts of Her Fearful not with paranormal events but with the ordinary pleasures and frustrations of life." The New York Times

"A modern Victorian novel revolving around a London cemetery, ghostly hauntings and a well-kept secret.... A bewitching modern-gothic tale that is at once unsettling and intriguing." Chicago Sun-Times

"Talk about time travel: The novel blends the history of London’s famed Highgate Cemetery, the remarkable phenomena of mirror-image twins and the question of life after death into a ghost story that feels as if it could have been written a century ago." National Post

"Odd and disturbing but intensely mesmerizing and memorable. . . . Niffenegger spins such a riveting story--just like she did in The Time Traveler’s Wife--that suspending disbelief is a pleasure." The Miami Herald

About the Author

AUDREY NIFFENEGGER is a visual artist and a guide at Highgate Cemetery. In addition to the bestselling novels The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, she is the author of three illustrated novels, The Three Incestuous Sisters,The Adventuress, and The Night Bookmobile, and the editor ofGhostly. She lives in Chicago and London.

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By J. Tobin Garrett on Oct. 2 2009
Format: Hardcover
There's always a mixture of anxiety and excitement when reading the new book by an author whose first book you loved so much (in this case, The Time Traveler's Wife). And, although I tried really hard, I couldn't help but compare the two books while reading Her Fearful Symmetry. Let me just come out right now and say: this book is not as good. But does that mean it's bad? Not at all.

Her Fearful Symmetry has an intoxicating idea behind it: the idea of what happens after we die. And this is an idea that has been written about a million times before. What I enjoyed so much about The Time Traveler's Wife was that she took a subject like time travel and gave it a new twist, brought it out in a way that I hadn't seen before. Her Fearful Symmetry doesn't quite accomplish this task. I was still drawn into the world, the characters, the story...but there was something stilted about the whole thing, something a little less magical.

This book has many characters and the third person POV oscillates back and forth between their stories. Niffenegger weaves her theme of obsession well into each story. There is also the theme of (obviously) symmetry and mirror-images, of being attached to someone, whether that attachment is love, family, genetic, or otherwise. A few times she pushes this theme a bit too much, leaving her authorial fingerprints behind a few too many times.

Niffenegger's writing, as in her first book, is simple and effective. She tells a good story and the pacing works well, leaving me reading for hours on end without boredom. The last quarter of the book, however, contains some plot elements (which I can't delve into here for fear of ruining things) that were a bit difficult for me to swallow, believability-wise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John M. Ford TOP 100 REVIEWER on Feb. 19 2013
Format: Paperback
Elsbeth Noblin has not seen her twin Edie for twenty years. Letters have been exchanged, but without resolution of the family secret which has kept them apart. Elsbeth dies and leaves her London flat and considerable estate to Edie's twin daughters, stipulating that they must live in the flat for at least a year. Just turned twenty-one, Elsbeth's nieces, Julie and Valentina, arrive from America and move in. Their neighbors include Robert, Elsbeth's lover, and Martin, whose wife has fled from his worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder. The twins begin to explore London and venture into the neighboring Highgate Cemetery, where Elsbeth is buried.

Then Elsbeth begins communicating. First with the twins, then with Robert. There are things she wants them to know. And do. As this part of the story unfolds, we learn much about Elsbeth's afterlife as a ghost--the constraints she lives under and the powers she slowly develops. Author Audrey Niffenegger gives us a unique and very personal view of the afterlife.

Its characters are the book's strength. Some emerge briefly. We know solicitor Xavier Roche by what we see during a single visit to his office. The Little Kitten of Death speaks not a word, but has great influence on her human caregivers. However, the book is mostly about pairs of characters and the...asymmetry of their relationships. Julie and Valentina are mirror twins down to their internal anatomies. One remarks that what she sees in the mirror each morning is more her sister than herself. But the twins' different personalities create a tension that is hidden by their identical clothes and shared lives. We understand Robert through flashbacks to his life with Elsbeth, his deeply felt grief at her death, and his conflicted feelings when she returns.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Barbara TOP 500 REVIEWER on Nov. 9 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was disappointed with this book. I did not let the author's other book influence my opinion and I didn't compare them.

As other reviewers have commented, the first three quarters of the book are okay. The idea of the ghost is very interesting and although I found it a bit of a slow read I stuck with it hoping it would get better as the story evolved. It does get more interesting as the characters interact.

Then comes the last quarter of the book which I can only describe as awful. I'm certain that these two parts of the book were written at two different times and forced together. But they just don't fit. The transition from the quiet and somewhat simple life of nice people living in an apartment with a ghost changing and acting like ghouls at the end did not make sense.

The characters make decisions which just don't fly in the face of fiction because they aren't believeable actions. The reactions of the main characters to the events when they do happen are very flat and unrealistic. The ending is disappointing and does not resolve the issues presented.

I agree that this story was an idea which the author tried to force fit with the characters. But it doesn't work.

I would not recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Samantha TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 7 2010
Format: Hardcover
When I began Her Fearful Symmetry, I was tickled that I'd finally found a good book to read after three stinkers in a row. Much to my chagrin, I was wrong: it was my fourth stinker. I was so confused by the peculiar turn of events in the last fifth of the book that I felt like I'd fallen into the Twilight Zone. The carefully drawn characters became flat despite improbable recklessness; the story careened from a cogent family mystery and English ghost story to unconvincing, outlandish, incoherent balderdash. I read on, hoping that the ending would somehow make amends. It didn't; it just kept falling further over the cliff. Conversations were truncated, chapters left dangling. The big mystery was so simple-minded and untenable, perhaps Ms. Niggenegger thought some other over-the-top drama was required. I would have been happy to have the foolhardy mystery explained without the insane double climax. Also, the disturbed twin thing is an overused gimmick. The two sets of twins in this novel have created messy dramas of their lives, not because they are twins, but because they are individuals with problems everyone struggles with, like jealousy, obsession, depression, narcissism.
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