22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Enchanting, but slightly flat,
This review is from: Her Fearful Symmetry (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. I'm not talking supernatural elements, but more choices characters made. Certain things didn't feel true to the character or the story she had been telling so far, as if Niffenegger had an idea about what she wanted to happen and forced her characters into that idea, even though it didn't seem to fit properly. Obviously, everyone will have their own opinions as to whether the decisions in the last quarter of the book work or not. For me, they didn't. But not in such a drastic way as to ruin the book for me.
I was still entranced by the story, enough so that the disappointments I had about the book took a backstage to my actual enjoyment of reading it. I feel as though the pressure of the second novel after the first was such a success has led Niffenegger to perhaps over think and over write this book, and I look forward to her third novel, where I imagine some of this pressure is alleviated.