Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

This was another find passed along by either Big Diamond or Little Diamond, via my Mom, and oh, what a find. Audrey Niffenegger wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife, a highly unusual book which hit the best seller list like a hurricane. This book, Her Fearful Symmetry, solidifies the perception that this author has real talent, thinks way outside the box, and creates characters and situations that, while unlikely, are likable and who become real enough for us to identify with them.

The title is based on a poem by William Blake, a poem I have always liked:

The Tiger

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies 5
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart? 10
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp 15
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee? 20

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

While this tale is a great yarn, it helps to know this poem, there are a lot of literary references in the novel and the title is just one of them.

As the story begins, there is a death, a will, and a set of mirror-image twins who inherit a flat in London overlooking a famous cemetery. The flat is in a building and has an upstairs neighbor, a man succumbing to obsessive-compulsive disease, and a downstairs neighbor, an aging bachelor, all a little eccentric in the nicest, English sort of way. The twins, Valentina and Julia, are twenty years old, and waif-like, still dressing alike, doing almost everything together.

There is also a ghost. No, wait! Two ghosts, and a kitten ghost. No, wait! I forgot! Lots of ghosts!

What I love about Audrey Niffenegger is that she takes what we perceive as reality and gives it a twist, and once you buy the twist, you are off on a wild ride. This book is a wild ride, with unforgettable characters and some unexpected kinks and thrills, as well as more than a couple shudders and chills.

February 12, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Books, Character, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Fiction, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships | 2 Comments