Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Just read Her Fearful Symmetry

After a huge hit like The Time-Traveler's Wife one can expect the pressure must have been unimaginable for Ms. Niffenegger. I deliberately waited to read this until the press and hype had died down so I'd have fresh eyes. A few friends weren't fans, and oddly enough the males who recommended TTW weren't keen on the cover so didn't read it.

It's good though, a solid sophomore effort. Niffenegger's characters sucked me in from the first page - she's got a curious way of flirting with her readers, revealing enticing bits of her characters throughout the book. I was more concerned about 'who happened' rather than 'what happened'.

The setting is lush, and is a love letter to Highgate Cemetery in London and the surrounding neighborhood. When the book expands to other parts of London, it feels slightly forced - guess what, the author knows London! - but when in the bubble of Highgate, the setting is a gentle, enchanting backdrop to the novel.

My other qualm is italicized words to indicate the character is thinking. She pauses, considering her next sentence. That sort of thing. It's distracting. I should be able to figure out what characters are thinking by their actions, by what they say or what they don't say. Including these cheapened the writing for me.

The twists were good, if not slightly predictable; the ending was satisfying; overall a good read. TTW was a more life-shifting read; the way Niffenegger played with structure and character was extraordinary. But HFS is worth reading if only to fall into the dark world of historical cemeteries, ghosts, and her complex, absorbing characters.

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