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Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry, By Audrey Niffenegger

A review of the new one from the author who brought you The Time Traveler’s Wife


By Audrey Niffenegger

Review by Jenn Kane


American author Audrey Niffenegger’s debut, The Time Traveler’s Wife, brought her almost immediate fame; the instant best-seller became a favorite amongst book clubs and broody, independent readers alike. The treacly film adaptation brought the mind- (and time-) bending romance to an even larger audience, and people finally learned how to pronounce that mouthful of a surname. It also helped Niffenegger get a $5 million book deal for her sophomore outing, Her Fearful Symmetry. The haunting, deeply British tale follows American twins Julie and Valentina, ethereal 20-year-olds with halos of pale blonde hair. They are the daughters of Edie, herself a twin, whose sister, Elspeth has just died. Elspeth’s boyfriend, Robert, a shy, death-obsessed Brit is left as executor of her estate and in charge of the young twins when they come to claim their inheritance: Elspeth’s flat in a lovely old house. Robert and one of the twins of course become drawn to one another, which became a major hurdle not only to all the relationships in the book, but to this reader: Niffenegger likes to pair up impressionable “old soul” young girls with much older men and couch their relationship in a dreamy, romantic bubble; this worked in Time Traveler’s Wife—but here feels vaguely incestuous and ultimately distracting. Niffenegger has managed to spin a tense, Victorian-esque yarn, but too much of the story is perplexing, mean-spirited (literally—Elspeth becomes a ghost with the worst intentions) and uncomfortable.

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