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.
While Niffenegger is one of those authors I avoid like the plague, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one, because I know so many other people haven't. It's good when it works for you!ReplyDelete
The reviews of this book have been so mixed, I can't decide if I want to try it or not. I may try The Time Traveler's Wife first.ReplyDelete
I wasn't thrilled with Time Traveler's Wife at first, either, but I ended up loving it, so I'm pretty intrigued by this one, too. Niffenegger is a little off-beat, but sometimes that's a good thing. Unfortunately I won't get to anything from my TBR file until I finish the research for my next book, but this is going on the list.ReplyDelete
HFS is one of those books I just can't decide my true feelings. I was a bit unhappy about the ending, but the tone of the novel was really amazing.ReplyDelete
Amanda - I'm glad it worked out to be something I enjoyed, especially since it's not a short book! As far as I'm concerned, it's nothing like The Time Traveler's Wife, so, who knows? Maybe you'd even like it! ;-)ReplyDelete
Kathy - If you haven't read The Time Traveler's Wife, definitely try that one first. It was definitely my favorite of the two, and in my opinion, the easier one to like.
M.L. - It's definitely got an intriguing premise, and it's more than a little offbeat, but I definitely think it's harder to like than Time Traveler's Wife. It doesn't have the strong sort of love story that distracts you from or even justifies some of the dark and twisty events that take place, but when I turned the last page I found myself unexpectedly satisfied by the way the story played out. It's definitely one to try! P.S. Looking forward to your next book - good luck with that research!
Trisha - I think it's one I'll be reconsidering my feelings about several times over. It's not a book that's easy to put in a box and say "this is good" or "this is bad." I liked the atmosphere and the slow build but didn't get into the Robert/Elspeth love story as much as the Martin/Marijke one which would have changed my perception a lot. I was, however, unexpectedly satisfied with how things worked out, and that's what tipped the scales for me.
I've been hesitant to pick this up ever since its release, it seems to be a let down for so many people.ReplyDelete
Hooray!! this is definitely one that has grown on me more and more since I finished it. I've gotten to the point now where I just adore this book. When I finished it I thought to myself "Well that was strange...but it was good." And now I just love it. You just can't expect anything traditional with Niffenegger!ReplyDelete
I liked this book, but I know know a lot of people didn't. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.ReplyDelete
I really planned to read this for the RIP challenge this year, but I can't find my copy! Hopefully it reappears soon so I can see what I think. :)ReplyDelete
I loved this book so much that it is still my favourite book of this year. I am glad there are other who liked it. I can see that there might be elements one doesn't like. I just loved the atmosphere. I looked at pictures of the cemetary for hours, they are so beautiful. To think of the while reading enhanced it a lot.ReplyDelete