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Her Fearful Symmetry Hardcover – Oct 6 2009

2.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Oct 6 2009
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Canada; American First edition (Oct. 6 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307397459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307397454
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 16.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #319,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"An engrossing read by someone who really knows how to keep a story rolling. . . . she makes us really care about her characters, but it’s her storytelling chops that make Her Fearful Symmetry a winner."
NOW (Toronto)

"[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 Symmetry . . . deal not with paranormal events but with the ordinary pleasures and frustrations of life."
The New York Times

"Niffenegger deftly creates and maintains suspense. . . . Niffenegger has created a startling cast of characters whose eccentricities make them both more memorable and more believable."
The Gazette

"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. . . . Niffenegger’s writing is bewitching. . . . Niffenegger delivers with great skill a chilling and haunting story."
The Miami Herald

"Vivid prose. . . . Perverse fun. . . . The occult-loving Victorians would have been captivated. Her Fearful Symmetry begins slowly, but it ends with a shiver."
Toronto Star

"Filled with originality and beauty, along with a touch of creepiness. . . . Niffenegger has managed it again, producing another book that is immensely readable, strikingly original and — forgive the pun — simply haunting. It’s a delightful read and well crafted."
The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)

"Stylish, easy to read and . . . a dark delicious plot which has several neat twists. . . . Clever in its deviousness."
The Scotsman

"Niffenegger creates . . . marvelous scenes of muted sadness and smothered affection. . . . A disorienting shift into the dark logic of fairy tales. But keep the children away and dust off the Ouija board; you’re about to make contact with something deliciously creepy."
The Washington Post

About the Author

Audrey Niffenegger was born in 1963 in the idyllic hamlet of South Haven, Michigan. Her family moved to Evanston, Illinois when she was little; she has lived in or near Chicago for most of her life.

She began making prints in 1978 under the tutelage of William Wimmer. Miss Niffenegger trained as a visual artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her MFA from Northwestern University's Department of Art Theory and Practice in 1991. She has exhibited her artist's books, prints, paintings, drawings and comics at Printworks Gallery in Chicago since 1987.

Her first books were printed and bound by hand in editions of ten. Two of these have since been commercially published by Harry N. Abrams: The Adventuress and The Three Incestuous Sisters.

In 1997 Miss Niffenegger had an idea for a book about a time traveler and his wife. She originally imagined making it as a graphic novel, but eventually realized that it is very difficult to represent sudden time shifts with still images. She began to work on the project as a novel, and published The Time Traveler's Wife in 2003 with the independent publisher MacAdam/Cage. It was an international best seller, and has been made into a movie.

In 1994 a group of book artists, papermakers and designers came together to found a new book arts center, the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts. Miss Niffenegger was part of this group and taught book arts for many years as a professor in Columbia College's MFA program in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts. She still teaches at Columbia College; currently she is teaching writing courses that specialize in text-image relationships. Miss Niffenegger has also taught for the Newberry Library, Penland School of Craft and other institutions of higher learning.

Miss Niffenegger is a founding member of the writing collective Text 3 (T3). Recent T3 endeavors include the litmag little Bang and some rather amusing dinner parties.

Miss Niffenegger's second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, was published in 2009 by Scribner (USA), Jonathan Cape (UK) and many other fine publishers around the world.  She recently made a serialized graphic novel for the London Guardian, The Night Bookmobile, which will be published in book form in 2010. Other current projects include an art exhibit at Printworks Gallery in September, 2010, and a third novel, The Chinchilla Girl in Exile.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
Truly awful. Niffenegger has presented a very, very unbalanced work with her periphery characters being more sympathetic and interesting than her main characters who are insipid at best, petty and vapid at worst. As others have written - the novel has periods of decent writing but the final quarter of the book emphasizes all of the text's weaknesses and veers into unnecessarily disturbing and downright sloppy writing. On one hand the passages about Highgate Cemetery are lovingly researched and lyrically presented - in painful juxtaposition to incidents in the novel that are so blatantly impossible and easily researched via a cursory glance at Google. The illogic of these parts of the book is so distracting and annoying that it's positively enraging. It was difficult to read on - but read on I did - and came up against further implausibilities (and that is taking into consideration that the reader already embraces the fact that this is a ghost story and will have elements of the supernatural) and emotional inconsistencies within her characters.
Another reviewer has mentioned that the drama between the twins is overblown and beyond credulity and I absolutely have to agree. Even if the situational part of the plot were believable it doesn't even make sense within the relationships that she has depicted or the backgrounds that she alludes to. Everything in the novel is loosely stitched together by Niffenegger's passion for Highgate Cemetery and not much else.
I don't often feel that reading is a waste of my time - but in sitting down with this book, I most certainly did.
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Format: Hardcover
I, like many of the reviews posted, read this book based on my love for the Time Traveller's Wife. That is one of the few books I have read twice. It's characters haunted me, lived in me for many months afterwards.

Her Fearful Symmetry started off with a completely different atmospheric hue. And in the beginning, I realised I had to shed any association I had to The Time Traveller's Wife. The author has a knack for researching a topic thoroughly and plunking it seamlessly into the background of a story line. The Highgate Cemetery is now indelibly flushed out for me in a way I would never have cursorily considered previously. I enjoyed learning about London, the Tube system, the ways of speech, and Vautravers.

I do, however, agree with other posts that the last part of the book completely veered away from the first and middle part. The characters began to behave in ways that were not aligned with their character. It felt like watching a slow train wreck that I was horrified for in two ways: 1) the story was unravelling towards travesty due to character inconsistency which is hard to accept/buy into and 2) the characters were behaving so out-of-character that I started to grieve them, separate from them to get distance from them and finish the book more quickly. By the end, I was skipping paragraphs so I could just get the essence, the plot and move towards completion.

I am not a fan of authors' losing the through-line of their characters. It reminded me somewhat, but nowhere as dramatic an undoing, of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. An example of characters being driven to madness and destroying the fabric of a well crafted storyline and character array without regard for the already established personality profile of the characters.

I have faith that Audrey Neiffenegger will likely write more beautiful novels. This one I can't recommend without a lot of caveats.
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