Tag Archives: time travel

Coming Up Next…

A review of 13 rue Therese: A Novel by Elena Mauli Shapiro, which will be released by Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown and Company tomorrow.

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A Great Book Giveaway

This site picked Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger as the best book released in the year 2009.   Now, thanks to Regal Literary, we are happy to celebrate the release of this novel in trade paperback form by giving away a free copy!

How much, exactly, did we love Her Fearful Symmetry?   Well, we published not one or two but three separate reviews of the dramatic ghost story (September 23, 2009; September 28, 2009; November 7, 2009).   Here is a link to the first of the three reviews (“What Comes After”) that we posted:


So, how can you win your own copy?   It’s simple, just post a comment here or send an e-mail with your name and an e-mail address to: Josephsreviews@gmail.com .   This will count as a first entry.   For a second entry, tell me why stories about ghosts and/or twins are so very interesting (at least I find them so).   There are no right or wrong answers, just tell me what you think.   You have until midnight PST on Friday, September 10, 2010 to submit your entry(s).

The winner, as drawn by Munchy the cat, will be notified via e-mail and will have 72 hours to provide a residential mailing address in the United States.   The winner’s copy of Her Fearful Symmetry will be shipped directly to her/him by Regal Literary.   The book will not be sent to a business address or a P.O. box.  This is it for the simple rules.

Good luck and good reading!


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Her Fearful Symmetry

her fearful kindle

Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger (Scribner, $26.99, 416 pages)

A simple ghost story, that’s what Her Fearful Symmetry is.   It’s the story of a woman, a twin, who dies and leaves her home and possessions in London to the twin daughters of her estranged sister.   The late Elspeth’s flat is located next to the dramatic Highgate Cemetery, which, itself, serves as a major character in this novel.   Based on this summary, a reader would not expect this to be a significant work.   The reader would be wrong, because this ghost story was written by Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife), one of the best writers of our time.

Niffenegger creates a small, magical world where every thought, every word, every action of the main characters has significance.   Reading Symmetry is like watching a film shown in slow motion; her style is so arresting that it’s a challenge to look away.   What Sacramento’s Joan Didion is to non-fiction writing, Niffenegger is to the world of fiction.   Both are masters of icy realism, and it hardly matters what it is they write about.

Niffenegger may not convince you to believe in ghosts or time travel, but you will believe in her writing talents.   A perfect gift for a future novelist.   Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.


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Take Two…

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Author Audrey Niffenegger has captured the essence of a prize-winning novel and potential blockbuster movie with this, her second effort.   The story revolves around 20-something twins Julia and Valentina whose mom is also a twin.   The girls are bequeathed an apartment in London overlooking Highgate Cemetery by mom’s twin, who dies of cancer.   The catch – they must live in the apartment for one year.

The book’s scenes are set in meticulous detail.   There is an elegant balance between the quirky and the mundane, whether it is the characters themselves, their clothes or the rooms they inhabit.   Elspeth’s apartment is a treasure trove of books and furniture, easily pictured by the reader.   The same holds true for visualizing Valentina’s creativity in fashioning the twins’ clothing.   The action goes from laboriously slow, when Martin painstakingly scrubs the floors of his flat, to breathtakingly fast when Valentina is racing around London trying desperately to become her own person.Her Fearful Symmetry 6

Anyone lucky enough to read Symmetry will thoroughly enjoy vicariously traipsing around London and will definitely come to know their way around Highgate Cemetery.   The characters experience more than their share of emotional highs and lows.   Some are well beyond the usual range for ordinary people – read that non-twins.   If ever you’ve wondered what’s considered normal, this book will bring you into a whole new dimension that is entirely plausible.

Five stars – highly recommended.   The book far exceeded this reader’s expectations.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Coming Up Next…

A guest – and second – review of Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife).Her Fearful Symmetry 5

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What Comes After

Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger

If anyone else had written this story, I’d be tempted to say there’s not much to it.   Elspeth Noblin, knowing that she will soon die of cancer, leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces from the U.S., Julia and Valentina.   These are the daughters of Elspeth’s estranged sister.   Why does Elspeth desire to be united after death with the nieces she’s never seen?   What will they learn by living in Elspeth’s flat, wearing her clothes, surrounded by her former lover and friends?   Why is the flat in question located next to London’s Highgate Cemetery?   And why did Julia and Valentina’s mother separate herself from Elspeth?Her Fearful Symmetry 5

All of these questions are answered in due time in Symmetry’s 416 pages.   But this is not a fast read.   It is a work of slow, intricate and fascinating pace written by Audrey Niffenegger.   Yes, she is the woman who wrote the mega-selling novel The Time Traveler’s Wife.   In her own real life Niffenegger is a guide at Highgate Cemetery in London, while also living in Chicago.   (She lives in the worlds she writes about.)

I will not say more about the plot except to say that there is a ghost involved – actually three of them, before the puzzle is solved.   The real pleasure here is in the telling…   Niffenegger shows once again that she’s at the top of her game, on top of her craft.   As she delicately tells her story, we wait almost breathlessly for the next short chapter, the next development, the next conversation, the next thought from one of her characters.

Some writers write big, building up large stages and filling up every space.   Niffenegger seems to write in between spaces, in the ghostly void between life and death, now and the past, hopes and regrets.   It may be natural, then, that she wrote about time travel in the context of an everlasting love story.   Now she writes of a family’s hopes, loves and disappointments; matters which cannot be limited by the boundaries of life and death.

If this is not an absolute masterpiece, it is likely to be as close to one as we’ll be privileged to see this year (and maybe the next).

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.


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