Sarah Ryburn's Reviews > Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
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's review
Nov 16, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary-fiction
Read from November 08 to 14, 2010

i read this novel cover-to-cover in a day. i haven't done such a thing in a very long time. true i was sick, and it was a rather drear and rainy day. still, 400 pages in one sitting. i would call myself a reader, but i still find that impressive.

the novel was captivating. the characters were interesting, the plot engaging, with just enough of the supernatural to satisfy my current taste for the element of magic/fantasy/wish-fulfillment. this element seems so much at home with the landscape of highgate cemetary and the backdrop of victorian london (think elspeth's flat and its furnishings or robert's research and all the "friends of highgate"). these touches add a degree, somehow, of verisimilitude given the victorian fascination with seance and communing with the spirit world, the dearly departed whom one seemed always to hope might not be entirely departed...

i thoroughly enjoyed it. until the ending. (for clarity, i refer to the second chapter entitled "the end.") the author writes what might be a lovely final scene in which one character states ominously to the male protagonist (not to be confused any number of possible female protagonists) that it seems he's gotten exactly what he wished for and he walks out the door of her office and through the gates of highgate. again, that marvelous landscape, but beyond it the author seems almost to ramp up to an entirely new chapter of the story elspeth's new life, literally, with the child robert foreshadowed in an odd sort of way in the first chapter titled "the end." then she leaves us hanging. at least robert leaves elspeth and their child, as his father abandoned him, and it just doesn't ring true.

i'm not sure how easy i feel about valentina in the end either. i kept hoping somehow she and julia would plot a way to get her back into her body and that a wise and happier valentina would finally exert herself in life over julia. alas. not to be.


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