26. toukokuuta 2012

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger

After I absolutely ruined The Time Traveler's Wife for myself by watching the movie while reading the book, I felt pretty depressed and wasn’t at all sure if I should battle my way through it or just start a new book. As you’ve probably noticed from that teeny tiny “Now Reading” box, I’m always starting new books and rarely finishing them. One thing this blog has done for me is that I’ve actually started to finish books more often, just so I could review them in all honesty.

Anyway, I decided I’d give Her Fearful Symmetry a shot, and I was instantly engulfed by it. As some of you probably know, I spent four and a half months in London some years back and one of my favorite places was the Highgate Cemetery, despite the fact that I only visited it once and took photos with my friend’s camera. I never got the photos for myself as she claimed that the memory card broke. Yeah right. All the same, I could so easily imagine myself in the midst of the events of the book and I just wanted to keep reading, just to find out more. The book contains bits of history of the cemetery, but not so much as to get boring. The depiction of the cemetery is accurate and if you’ve ever visited, you can see the places in your mind’s eye.

The story introduces us to Valentina and Julia, mirror twins, and their mother and aunt, Edie and Elspeth, who are twins as well, although not mirrored. The story is complex and just like The Time Traveler's Wife, it requires concentration to read, or else the story will drop you by the side of the road and keep speeding on ahead without you. There’s also downstairs neighbor Robert, who’s writing a thesis on the history of the cemetery (which is why the bits of history are in the book) and upstairs neighbor Martin, who suffers from OCD. A really bad OCD at that. The girls first arrive in London when their aunt Elspeth dies and leaves them her flat next to the cemetery, on the condition that their parents must never visit it. After some time living in the apartment it becomes apparent to the girls that their aunt is not quite ready to leave her flat just yet.

The story is told from many different perspectives, and the differences in personalities are quite delightful to read. Usually when someone writes a book like this the personalities mix and intertwine with each other, becoming confusing to the reader, but Niffenegger has created such different types that it’s impossible to mix them up with each other. It becomes apparent from the very first sentences who is it that is now in charge of the storytelling. All the characters are in balance with each other as well, and it really feels like Niffenegger isn’t playing favorites. The bits from the perspective of the ghosts are especially interesting, because it’s rarely done, and even rarer is that it’s done so well.

The way Niffenegger writes is fantastic as well. In The Time Traveler's Wife the style is already visible, but in Her Fearful Symmetry it becomes really apparent. The stories compose of enough of supernatural and intrigue to be interesting, but also enough of small moments of reality to be believable. For example there is a scene where Martin’s tooth is pulled out because it’s hurting so much and he can’t smoke afterwards because the suction might remove the scab, and so one of the twins smokes for him, blowing the smoke into his mouth. The feel of the moment is so tangible and easy to get into, that it really brings the whole story closer to the reader.

I loved this book, and it has given me more will to finish The Time Traveler’s Wife as well.


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