Saturday, December 12, 2009
A Ghost Story
Her Fearful Symmetry: Audrey Niffenegger: I like a good ghost story as much as (probably more than) anyone. Peter Straub's Ghost Story, Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, the short stories of M. R. James are all works that I've loved. I didn't come to Her Fearful Symmetry with the same preconceived notions as readers of The Time Traveler's Wife; I've yet to read that book. Yet I was still vaguely disappointed. With its evocation of William Blake and its interesting premise, I just expected more than this book delivers. I found myself annoyed by the two major protagonists -- the twins, Julia and Valentina -- as they seem passive participants in their own lives, especially Valentina. They are so passive that I couldn't remember their names; I had to look them up before writing this. The most vivid and interesting character is Martin, the OCD afflicted upstairs neighbor of the twins; yet I'm not really sure why he was such a major character in the novel -- his story seems separate from the twins' story. Her Fearful Symmetry is about the special bond twins share -- Julia and Valentina are so entwined in each other's lives that it's impossible to separate them, but that's what Valentina wants -- to lead a live separate from Julia's. And in the end, it's her solution (aided by the ghost of her aunt Elspeth) to this problem that annoyed me most about this book -- it seemed just too extreme and was bound to go wrong from the beginning. And yet, despite being annoyed and disappointed, I don't regret reading this book; the writing is lovely and the characters are well-drawn.