Review: Her Fearful Symmetry


I haven’t seen any reviews for Audrey Niffenegger’s new novel and am a little surprised (in the blogosphere). If you enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife I think you will love this one.

I do suggest you click through to the author’s website first – Highgate Cemetery is a real place and the photographs are amazing. They will provide a visual for the story.

From the author’s website: Audrey Niffenegger was born in 1963 in the idyllic hamlet of South Haven, Michigan. Her family moved to Evanston, Illinois when she was little; she has lived in or near Chicago for most of her life.

She began making prints in 1978 under the tutelage of William Wimmer. Miss Niffenegger trained as a visual artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her MFA from Northwestern University’s Department of Art Theory and Practice in 1991. She has exhibited her artist’s books, prints, paintings, drawings and comics at Printworks Gallery in Chicago since 1987.

In 1997 Miss Niffenegger had an idea for a book about a time traveler and his wife. She originally imagined making it as a graphic novel, but eventually realized that it is very difficult to represent sudden time shifts with still images. She began to work on the project as a novel, and published The Time Traveler’s Wife in 2003 with the independent publisher MacAdam/Cage. It was an international best seller, and has been made into a movie.


I’m not going to summarize the storyline beyond what is provided below (see synopsis), if I talk about the details I might give something away. Her Fearful Symmetry is elegantly written, the story progresses at a slow detailed pace (I mean this in the best way possible), every word is on the page serves a purpose. The imagery is stunning, spellbinding.

I have mentioned this before, I'm a na├»ve reader. A writer’s perfect muse - I was eagerly awaited the twists and turns in this book. As I write this review, it’s definitely a top 5 read in 2009.

Please do not rush through this book, I took two weeks to read it – it’s worth taking in, absorbing, enjoying every page!

Click here to read a good author Q&A

Type: Fiction, 416 pages, Hardcover

Synopsis: Six years after the phenomenal success of The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger has returned with a spectacularly compelling and haunting second novel set in and around Highgate Cemetery in London.

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt; they only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers -- with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery. They come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive former lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including -- perhaps -- their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.

Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry: about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life -- even after death.