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Archive: Other Books > Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday (3 stars)

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message 1: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Asymmetry is a book that is getting a lot of critical acclaim. The problem is that you need to read a literary analysis to be able to understand it (at least I did).

The novel is broken into three sections or novellas. Each section reads like a completely separate novellas. Section 1 is the story of the relationship between Alice (nod to Alice in Wonderland), a young editor's assistant and Ezra, an older successful writer. It's pretty clear (one of the few things that is clear in this book) that Ezra is Philip Roth. In fact the author later acknowledged that this section was inspired by her relationship with Roth when she was in her 20s. The relationship highlights the power imbalance (asymmetry) between the two.

The second section is the story of an Iraqi-American man who has been detained at UK customs. His story alternate between the airport and flashbacks to his past. The final section is a coda. It is a short excerpt of an interview with Ezra and an interviewer. The three sections appear to be completely different. However, they apparently are connected. I'm going to tell you how below. It's not really a spoiler but I"m covering it as a spoiler in case you want to figure it out for yourself. Basically, I had no idea about how they were connected until I read the very subtle clue in part 3 and I would have preferred to know before reading it.

(view spoiler)

So ultimately the book was pretty clever but if you need to read a literary analysis to understand the book, I see that as a major flaw. The whole book is very meta but at times so subtly so that once you read the reviews you feel like you need to reread it with the new knowledge.


message 2: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments It left me feeling like maybe I’m just not smart enough. I wish her intentions were more obvious. It would have been much more effective.


message 3: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Susie wrote: "It left me feeling like maybe I’m just not smart enough. I wish her intentions were more obvious. It would have been much more effective."

And clearly you are smart so therein lies my major problem with the book. If it’s so clever that no one understands it, perhaps it’s not that clever after all


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