It's September the 21st already, and I've read approximately one book this month thus far. It's my pleasure to blame this mild travesty on Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I mean, if it hadn't been for my lunch breaks at work this past week, I might have done no book reading at all. Is it wildly ironic that I had to go to work to get any book reading done?
The good news is, though, that though I've only read on book this month thus far, it was the right book. It's exactly the one book I committed to read for exactly the one reading challenge (R.I.P. V!) I chose to participate in this year. Now, you may think that reading one book for a challenge and reviewing it is not a lofty goal, but, uh, yeah, I like totally failed last year. So that I'm here, I've read the book, and now I'm on the cusp of reviewing it is far more impressive than perhaps you're thinking.
Her Fearful Symmetry, if not exactly my most beloved book of the year, was definitely a good fit for a creepy fall read in the R.I.P. challenge vein. I'm not even sure if I quite know how I feel about it yet. It was definitely creepy, but not in the deliciously creepy kind of way you're envisioning when you curl up with a ghost story on a crisp, breezy fall day. More just like creepy creepy bordering on the disturbing. Or maybe I just don't read enough creepy ghost stories to be able to judge properly.
I don't usually do this, but I've got to stop a second here and say something about the book itself. Regal Literary sent me a finished paperback for review, and I think the paperback is just scrumptious. The cover is beautiful and the softened edges of the photograph of the girl seem to fit the book just right. It's got pages that are just the right thickness, a great font for the chapter headings, and photographs of the cemetary divide the parts of the book. It was exciting just to take it out of the envelope and hold it in my hand, and all the extra well-done aesthetic touches added pleasure to an already enjoyable reading experience. Ah, I take so much pleasure from just holding a book in my hand, I don't know that I'll ever be able to make the switch to an E-reader! But that's a problem for another day. Today there's a review to be written!
When Elspeth Noblin passes away after a long fight with cancer, she leaves her diaries to her lover, Robert, and she leaves her flat at Vautravers right next to Highgate Cemetary in London to her twin nieces Julia and Valentina. There are a few conditions, though. Valentina and Julia have to spend a year living in the flat before they can sell it and neither their father, Jack, nor their mother Edie, Elspeth's twin, may step foot in the flat to visit their daughters. Though Valentina, the meeker of the two, has considerable reservations about moving to London from Chicago, Julia's fierce determination to move to London and for the twins to stay together as they always have, wins out.
The two set off for London and settle in the flat. Julia becomes acquainted first with the upstairs neighbor, Martin, a man who suffers terribly from obsessive compulsive disorder whose wife, unable to live under the burden of Martin's many compulsions any longer, has left him. Much later they come to know Robert, Elspeth's grieving lover and a guide and a scholar of Highgate Cemetary. A year in the flat is complicated, however, because there is much mystery about the broken relationship between Elspeth and Edie that still lingers, and Julia and Valentina are finding that always being together, living as two halves of a whole is not the life they're both dreaming of. As for Elspeth? Well, she might be dead, but it appears she's not exactly gone. I'll say no more for fear of revealing crucial plot points in a book that's about the slow revelation of its many mysteries.
Her Fearful Symmetry is a book that grew on me, and one I suspect might continue to do so. It started slow, and I wondered where it was going and if it would get there soon. It finally grabbed me somewhere in the middle, and I had a sense of where it was headed and was rather disturbed by it. I think, though, that I was ultimately won over by its resolution. At its heart, Her Fearful Symmetry is about human folly and best intentions gone awry and being granted wishes that don't turn out the way you'd imagined. At times it's a twisted love story, and at other times it's a sweet love story, but it most definitley is a love story. It's not a fairy tale sort of love story, but a real love story that shows love for what it is: a terribly messy emotion that doesn't make sense and makes us do things that are beyond foolish and beyond selfish. It's a mystery and a ghost story with a rich, creepy atmosphere and a book that, despite my occasional misgivings, I think I really liked.