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Her Fearful Symmetry

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3.24  ·  Rating details ·  82,062 Ratings  ·  11,968 Reviews
Audrey Niffenegger's spectacularly compelling second novel opens with a letter that alters the fate of every character. Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest in college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of C ...more
Hardcover, 406 pages
Published September 29th 2009 by Scribner Book Company
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She Writes Time Traveler's Wife is a beautifully written novel that will make you believe in things you normally wouldn't. It's brilliant. I like Her Fearful…moreTime Traveler's Wife is a beautifully written novel that will make you believe in things you normally wouldn't. It's brilliant. I like Her Fearful Symmetry very much and did not find it in any way a disappointment, but Time Traveler's Wife is superb. They are two entirely different kinds of stories.(less)

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Scarlet
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marigold
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David Jay
Oct 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was difficult to put down but I deliberately tried to read slowly beause it was such a pleasure to read. Niffenegger is one of the finest contemporary writers and noone does longing and stymied love better than she does.

This book reminded me of "Time Traveler's Wife" as well as "The Lovely Bones." The stories center on an apartment building right off of Highgate Cemetery in London. One apartment belongs to Elspeth Noblin who dies on the first page of the book and bequeaths the apartment to
...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
This is a very tricky book to review.

I thoroughly enjoyed Her Fearful Symmetry. Having heard plenty of mixed reviews about this one, I wasn't sure how I would find it. On top of that, it was soon due back at the library, and I had 4 other library books calling my name desperately. I needn't have worried. This book definitely got me thinking and I like it when a book does that - when it stays in my mind for a long time after I actually finished reading it.

Her Fearful Symmetry is definitely a cha
...more
Kathy
Oct 11, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Like so many other readers, I was enchanted by The Time Traveler’s Wife. There was a willing suspension of disbelief on my part (which goes against my skeptical and cynical nature) but the story was sweet and engaging enough to pull it off. Not so much with Her Fearful Symmetry. Again, through at least the first 2/3 of the book, I was willing to suspend disbelief and go with the story. But then it just got ridiculous beyond the point where I enjoyed the story anymore.

Essentially a ghost story,
...more
Jennifer
Sep 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Audrey Niffeneger book where I'm not sure what or who I'm supposed to root for. (Reading the Time Traveler's Wife I often thought the words "BREAK UP WITH HIM, ALREADY" while the rest of the world was weeping over DOOMED LOVE).

Also, soulmates aren't real, and you don't have one.

Back to the book at hand...I had lunch in a local cafe while Niffenegger was being interviewed about this book at the next table, and it made for GREAT eavesdropping, and I got hooked on the premise of this book.
...more
James
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ is for the most part, a good, solid old fashioned ghost story with a contemporary setting. The backdrop to the novel, and what to an extent becomes the dominant character in the story, is London’s Highgate Cemetery – which is paradoxically an obvious but inspired and perfect choice. It’s a fascinating, hugely atmospheric and wonderful place to visit and is ideal as the setting for a haunting story of the supernatural such as this one.

Audrey Niffenegge
...more
Malcolm
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
--William Blake, "The Tyger"

When an acclaimed author (Audrey Niffenegger) takes a phrase from an inscrutable poem ("The Tyger"), readers (such as myself) are apt to expect a great story. Without a doubt Niffenegger's prose is elegant, her place descriptions (London and Highgate Cemetery) are exceptional, and her intricate plot has great promise.

That promise is not fulfilled.

Niffenegg
...more
Teresa
Oct 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
I read Niffenegger's first novel before the days of GR; and I remembered when I decided to rate it, I wavered between 3 (liked it) and 4 stars (really liked it). I ended up opting for 4 stars, because I did remember so much of it due to its sense of place and its unique storytelling. Her second novel has these same elements -- her strengths are obviously her imaginative story lines, which she roots in concrete reality. But the story, which started out strong, lost its way long before the weak en ...more
Margo Kelly
Oct 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my - this is the BEST book I have read in AGES! If I could give it more stars in the rating I would. Having just finished this book, I'm having flash-backs to the "Women in Literature" classes I took at the University of Puget Sound. I loved those classes because we would debate/discuss the significance of women and their relationships with other women and with men. I wish I could have one of "those" discussions regarding this book!

This book is excellent on so many different layers and levels
...more
Kim
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Wow, disappointing! Kept waiting for this to get good, and it never quite did. The two major "surprises" are painfully transparent well before they actually happen (I was hoping that I was being misled, because it couldn't be that obvious, could it?), most of the characters aren't very sympathetic, and the pacing is slow. Glad I didn't give into the impulse to buy a copy for myself, and instead borrowed it from the library - I'd be even more upset...

And of course, I'd be more forgiving if I hadn
...more
Jackie
Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, i-own-it
Just some thoughts: I loved this novel...but in a completely different way than I love The Time Traveler's Wife. I wasn't sure what to expect so I tried not to have any expectations, which is exactly the attitude to have going into this book. It has what now seems to be Niffenegger's style of writing that's smart & funny & quirky but somehow all seems to come together easily. It has a few curveballs, so don't bother reading ahead (like I did...only to confuse myself until I read straight ...more
Wealhtheow
Sep 04, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
When Elspeth dies, she leaves her papers to her boyfriend and her flat to her twin's children, the twin sisters Julia and Valentina. J&V are very pale, very slim, and although they're nearly 21, very unformed. They have no friends, no lovers, little education, and no interests besides watching tv together. They are astoundingly boring.

Meanwhile, their upstairs neighbor is struggling with OCD and a passionate love for his wife, who has left him because of it. And their downstairs neighbor is
...more
Rachel
Oct 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
The fact that this book is titled after a line in one of my least favorite poems ever* should perhaps be a strike against it, but the title is quite fitting and somehow makes even more sense in this context than in Blake's use of it. This is the story of two sets of twins (hence the symmetry) who have an extremely odd system of relationships -- "system," because the story explores the highly varied and yet remarkably similar relationships between the four twins. To say too much about these relat ...more
Sue
Feb 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
I don't even know where to start with this book. The fact that it was set in and near Highgate Cemetery in London gave it a creepy, gothic, horror movie kind of quality. One of the main characters is the ghost of the late Elspeth Noblin. The description of the twin sisters, Julia and Valentina, portrays them as almost ghost-like as well. They are whispy, pointless, lackluster, colorless young women who have no identity outside their twin-ness. The upstairs neighbor is a recluse who suffers from ...more
Magill
Nov 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
"The Time Traveller's Wife" this is not; TTW was a poignant story about normal people trying to live in, and make sense of, an abnormal situation. In contrast, "Her Fearful Symmetry" has a shortage of even moderately well-adjusted, let alone likable, characters and a storyline that resulted in a significant number of eye rolls and sighs of "good grief" (simultaneously, on occasion) particularly in the first ~1/3. I thought the 2nd 1/3 was more enjoyable as the twins became more individual, Rober ...more
Lori
Many thanks to Regal Literary for sending me an ARC, and also to Audrey for accepting my invitation to appear here for a Q&A session!!

I don't think there is a more fitting time of year for curling up with this novel - Chilly mornings, Damp afternoons, wrapped in a blanket watching the leaves change color and fall to the ground....

It's a ghost story but so much more.

It's a story about transition, about love, about separation, about strength, about deciet, about abandonment. It's hopeful, and
...more
Amy
Oct 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: un-put-downable
Update-1/6/10. I'm amending my review of this book, and making a new rule that I will not do reviews for at least a day once I've finished. What changed for me here was a lack of connection with the characters. I can't rate this as five stars because I really, in retrospect, didn't like any of them all that well or how they behaved.

I awaited this novel with eager anticipation and read it so fast, I will have to revisit it. I hate plot summaries, that is what Amazon and book jackets are for, so
...more
Moira Russell
I am now BITTER LIKE A BITTER, BITTER THING that this book, however panned it was, got its author a zillion-dollar advance and huge print run, while Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place, a wonderful book that actually combines the supernatural and the natural world beautifully, is still barely known. Pah.
Jeannine
Oct 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Such a disappointment.

While I certainly didn't expect this to be a clone of The Time Traveler's Wife (and I hate when authors write the same novels over and over, like, say, Jodi Picoult), this book was exponentially "less than" TTTW.

The main characters (Julia and Valentina the twins, Robert Fanshaw, Elspeth) were not likable or warm. I had some sympathy for Valentina and her desire to split from her overbearing twin, but the scheme concocted to acheive this was over the top (even more over the
...more
Amy
Oct 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is like an episode of the twilight zone on crack combined with a shakespeare tragedy.
Molly Magro
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brooke
Sep 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
I definitely don't know how to review this one. For context, I adored Time Traveler's Wife to pieces, and I normally keep my distance from anything that even hints of romance. The entire time I was reading Her Fearful Symmetry, I had a hard time remembering that the same author wrote both books. HFS has a nice gothic atmosphere, which reaches from the tone to the ghostly elements to the setting (London's Highgate Cemetery). I felt like it had more in common with Tana French's (awesome) mysteries ...more
Rhonda
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Morgannah
I have never read The Time Traveler's Wife, Ms. Niffenegger's claim to fame, and after reading Her Fearful Symmetry it is very likely I never will. This was not a bad book by any means but for me it simply failed to deliver the "goose bumpy" moments I so sincerely hoped for.
All the variables were there, there were creepy mirror twins, cooky neighbors, a spooky cemetery, a mystery to be solved and even a ghost in residence. But nope, just because the variables were there it didn't mean the equati
...more
The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)
Throw a huge cemetery, a cold & wintery London, bizzare mirror twins, a ferrel kitten and a recntly dead Aunt into a pot together and the result is a wonderfully quirky, melancholoy, spooky book.

The story is set around Highgate Cemetery in London where a recently dead Elspeth has left her appartment to her twenty year old American nieces, Julia and Valentina, who are mirror twins. When the twins arrive in their new home they soon learn that they are not alone as it appears their Aunt Elspeth
...more
Christie
Oct 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm vascilating between three and four stars. I lean towards three only because The Time Traveler's Wife is one of my favorite books of all time and so my expectations were high.

What a creepy, twisted book! So fun! This is the story of enmeshed twins who live in their aunt's haunted flat in London. I especially enjoyed the sub-plot of Martin and Marijke. I think my favorite part had to be the history of Highgate Cemetary that was woven in throghout the book. Also, the poetry references in the b
...more
Amy
I can easily say that this is the best new book I've read this year. If you like deliciously strange ghost stories, this book will definitely satisfy your appetite. I had to make myself read it slowly so that I could savor every morsel of the spell it cast on me when I would read it.

At the center of this novel are twin sisters who inherit their aunt's flat near Highgate Cemetery in London. The twins (Julia and Valentina) are mysterious, delicate, murmuring creatures who are inseparable even at a
...more
Shannon
Oct 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
I've been desperately seeking The Right Book. Unfortunately, The Right Book isn't from a specific genre, or by a specific author or set in a certain period in time. That would be too easy, you see. The book I'm looking for is one that winds its way into your heart and soul, takes you deep into the characters' lives and then squashes your heart, rips it from your chest and leaves it beating weakly on the table while you weep. Those books are hard to come by. At most, I find one or two a year. But ...more
Zirra
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me a long time to finish it, almost 2 months! I'm so torn between 3 or 4 stars but I figured that I loved Niffenegger's writing in this. The book also has elements that I'm rooting for, London, some vintage-esque fashion and paranormal stuff. The only thing that bothers me is the relationship between lovers, as well as that little plot twist which I honestly saw coming long before it actually does.

The writing is very enchanting, I find myself enjoyed reading about the residents of Highgate
...more
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Audrey Niffenegger (born June 13, 1963 in South Haven, Michigan) is a writer and artist. She is also a professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Columbia College Chicago.

Niffenegger's debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife (2003), was a national bestseller. The Time Traveler's Wife is an unconventional love story that centers on a man with a strange genetic disorder that causes him to unpre
...more
More about Audrey Niffenegger

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“There are several ways to react to being lost. One is to panic: this was usually Valentina's first impulse. Another is to abandon yourself to lostness, to allow the fact that you've misplaced yourself to change the way you experience the world.” 206 likes
“Listen, sometimes when you finally find out, you realize that you were much better off not knowing.” 141 likes
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