Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Her Fearful Symmetry: Review

Yesterday I indulged in one of my favourite forms of luxury - I read (almost) an entire book in one day. It takes a perfect set of circumstances to allow this sort of indulgence - a sunny day off to lay on the patio. A following day off that allows reading late LATE into the night (or early into the morning, depending what you consider 4 am). And a book that pulls you in deeper and deeper until you feel the ghost in the story sliding her cold finger over your spine. 

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I'm not generally a reader of ghost stories, unless you count some of Jane Austen's gentle forays into the Gothic.  But, I found Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveler's Wife (which apparently I never reviewed) so completely seductive a couple years back that all I had to do was recognize her name on the title page of Her Fearful Symmetry to pick it up at my favourite used book store. I managed to crack it open this weekend while BB2 and his sweetie were visiting, but didn't dive right in until I yesterday ... and then I couldn't stop.

I was worried at first that I'd get freaked out - the physical description of the younger twins in this novel reminded me of the twin girls in The Shining, and with STG out of town, my nerves in recovery mode, and my imagination unwieldy at the best of times, I wasn't sure I wanted to come play with them 'forever and ever and ever.'

But who can resist? Niffenegger has a seductive prowess that comes through in every aspect of her writing. It's in her word choice. Her character development. Her plot pacing and settings and the sheer lushness of the world she creates. She immerses us fully in the swirling other-world of Valentina and Julia, Elspeth and Edie, and the men surrounding them. Her preternatual imaginings are so compelling because they are blanketed in a level of recognizable reality that is as inescapable as dust on a grand piano, and as irresistable as writing your name in that dust.

This time our Niggenegger exposes us to the unfathomable connection of indentical - and with Valentina & Julia mirror-image - twins. We dive in and swim around the madness of obsessive compulsive disorder. We explore the history and the currency of the grand Victorian cemeteries of London. We ride the underground and feel the gritty, sweaty breath of the heaving masses next to us. We dance with identity. And we play with matters of life and death like the Little Kitten of Death plays with a bobbin.

Often when a book sucks me in this deeply I want to savour it, to slow my reading, to delay the eventual goodbye. Not this book. This book I wanted to devour. To suck it all into me and have it inhabit me. I'll carry it with me today as I go about one more day of holidays. I'll start the next novel in my stack of summer reading knowing it's too soon. And I'll pray that those ghostly twins keep their haunting on the other side of the Atlantic.

1 comment:

  1. Good to know! I've been looking for something to pick up. I just finished "Bones, Blood and Butter" and it was DIVINE. But warning: it will make you really hungry!


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