my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

January 10th, 2013

Book Review #2 – How to Be a Woman

Because it’s my book club selection for this month, I picked up How to Be a Woman by Caitlyn Moran with a certain amount of whimsy. Not really knowing what to expect but seeing the book sell like hotcakes over the last few months, I wasn’t sure it was going to be a book for me. It’s funny, irreverent, honest, and ballsy, and there were parts that I earmarked because I found them so compelling (in particular how everyone, man, woman, child, needs to stand on a chair and scream: I AM A STRIDENT FEMINIST; and that the biggest fault of humanity at the moment is that we’re simply just not polite enough full stop), but overall, I have some reservations about the book (I mean, of course I do).

Moran is a natural writer–you feel like her thoughts flow so smoothly from her mind to her fingers, and that they don’t get all caught up in between as mine sometimes do. And she has convincing arguments, namely about the fact that feminism has gotten lost in terms of the idea of equality–or, rather, the perception of the “achievement” of equality, and young women left, right and centre, are declaring themselves “not” feminists primarily because they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. She also rails against sexism, the lack of hair on female anatomy, revolutions in music (and then back again), and much, much more. There are obvious holes to her arguments, that come across more like opinions than rational, thought-out perspectives, but that doesn’t make the book any less impactful.

I like smart, sassy women who aren’t afraid to use words that make me blush even thinking about them. I like strong, opinionated women, too. But to say this is a book about ‘feminism’ might just be a bit of a misnomer. It’s a book about Moran’s own brand of feminism, about conclusions she’s drawn, and the hopes and opportunities she has for our gender. Throwing in statistics and quoting the hell out of Germaine Greer doesn’t necessarily a feminist tome make. I laughed out loud in many places, especially during the beginning bits of the book–the fevered pitch of her writing is charming, and her early life’s eccentric enough to make for truly entertaining reading. Yet, as I turned page after page, I kept thinking that Moran’s a woman who knows her own mind extremely well. She’s confident in her decisions, in her thoughts, in her position in the world–it’s a feminist position, absolutely, and as a feminist myself, I appreciate every word she says. Knowing your own mind is one thing, but it’s not a universal thing, and I guess that’s what was missing from this book–feminism as it relates to Moran isn’t necessarily a prescription to fix many of the problems in the world, but it’s most certainly not a bad place to start, either…

December 19th, 2011

#80 – #83 – Review Catch-Up

Getting caught up with book reviews might be an impossibility at this point. There are a few that I think deserve full, thoughtful reviews. But for some of the books that I’ve finished over the last little while I just want to note that I’ve read them, you know?

#80 – More by Austin Clarke

So, here’s my lesson: do not buy multiple books by the same author if you a) have never read the author and b) don’t know if you’d like the author’s voice in the first place. Way in the way back, I bought a copy of The Polished Hoe because it won the Giller. Then, because I thought to myself, Clarke was a Giller-winner and therefore must be a great writer, I bought a copy of another novel of his, More, before actually reading The Polished Hoe. And I found More an exceptionally hard book to get through. I’m glad I read it — it’s an interesting look at a woman living in downtown Toronto who abandoned her life’s dreams upon arriving here after taking up with a rogue of a man and having a son who becomes difficult to raise as he grows older. Yet the story, told in extreme stream of consciousness over the course of a few days when Idora discovers her son is missing (and she refuses/is scared to go to the police), remains incredibly hard to follow. And the voice, complex, issue-driven, and difficult, yet heartbreaking at the same time — it’s a highly personalized narrative, but it’s also confusing in terms of locating a coherent time/place in terms of the story. And that about did me in, I often found myself wondering where is she, what happened? how long has passed? throughout each of the diversions from the actual time frame of the novel. And then, I discovered that The Polished Hoe is written in much the same vernacular. Oh boy. Avoiding reading The Polished Hoe had me reorganizing ALL of my books in alphabetical order (instead of alphabetical by country/reading challenge) JUST to put it off for a few more days/weeks.

#81 – Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

I read this book over a few weeks on my iPad and enjoyed it immensely. Former EW writer Jennifer Reese. Over the course of many, many months Reese undertook an enormous task: is it actually cheaper to make anythings and everything at home? From butter to cheese to vermouth to chickens to turkeys to you name it, Reese tried to make it. And you know, the results were fascinating. It was an interesting experiment — and wholly interesting in terms of the comparisons. I don’t think I’d ever make a cheesie from scratch but I might actually go back to using our breadmaker in the new year (if I can find it). The only downfall was that the formatting of the ebook was terrible — drop boxes ending up in places that didn’t make sense, strange typos, and odd recipe layouts.

#82 – Another Life Altogether

 

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how this book ended up on my shelves. I avoided it for months, giving up my British shelf to focus on the Canadian, because I had zero interest in reading this novel. And yet, the novel was a complete delight — the story of a young girl, coming of age, coming out, who has to cope not only with being an awkward, outcast of a teenager, but with her mother’s manic depression. Jesse wants nothing more than to fit in and, after her mother returns from hospitalization, her father moves the family to a new town where she falls in with the popular (cruel) kids. The difficulties of leading a double life, not only hiding her mother’s troubling state of mind from her friends, but also her own sexuality, come to fruition with a somewhat cliched but still utterly engrossing conclusion. This novel completely surprised me, in a good way. Beale’s a strong, empathetic writer, and by the end I was rooting so hard for Jesse that I had to remind myself she wasn’t real.

#83 – Before I Go To Sleep

SJ Watson’s thriller seems to have done the impossible — thrilled literary and non-literary readers alike with an insanely addictive novel that is literally impossible to put down once you’ve started. In many ways, we, as a society are spoiled by the massive amount of entertainment that’s available to us. To someone who consumes a lot of pop culture, surprises are hard to come by. I mean, I can count on one hand how many times in the last ten years I’ve actually been fooled by “twists” in movies. I’m not going to step out and say that Watson’s novel is perfect — there are little inconsistencies that made me a little mental — but here’s the trick, I roared through this novel in less than a day and that’s while working full-time and taking care of a toddler. And that’s saying something about the power of his writing. When Christine wakes up, she has no idea who or where she is, amnesia has taken her life, and not for weeks, for years. Kept carefully and safely by her husband (or IS she?), Christine slowly manages to both overcome her medical condition and discover what really happened all those years ago. The novel keeps you hooked (although, like I said, anyone who knows their pop culture/thrillers/Julia Roberts movies will guess the ending) and it’s a terrific novel for a rainy Sunday afternoon when there are no good films on your PVR .

July 28th, 2011

#59 – Still Alice by Lisa Genova

My RRHB has a saying whenever anyone asks him contracting advice about their basements: “you can’t win against water.” This saying kept echoing and echoing through my mind as I read Lisa Genova’s Still Alice last night into the wee hours because the baby woke up at 2AM, and I couldn’t get either to sleep or back to sleep, so I pretty much finished the book in one sitting. The only other Alzheimer’s-related story I’ve read is by Alice Munro, and it’s aching, brilliant and cutting at the same time (“The Bear Came Over the Mountain“) so I sort of expected the same emotional resonance that carried throughout that story to be found in this novel, and I don’t know why, but it’s just not there.

Alice, the title character, starts having strange episodes involving her memory. She’s a “brilliant” psychology professor at Harvard who has devoted her life to understanding linguistics, and her equally brilliant scientist of a husband might just cure cancer (honestly); the two share a wonderful life, three equally brilliant kids, and a whole host of truly awful dialogue as the episodes become diagnosed as early-onset Alzheimer’s. I know the book jacket tells me this is an award-winning NY Times bestseller but, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why. It honestly read more like a really bad Lifetime movie of the week in parts, and I couldn’t abide by the melodrama.

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#57 – A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit From the Good Squad coverWhat a rare book Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Good Squad turned out to be for me — one utterly and completely deserving of its rather exuberant praise and awards. This book swept me away from start to finish and the quirks that I would normally complain about (a la the entire chapter by the young Alison Blake) charmed me to no end because the writing is just that good. It’s more of a series of linked stories, Venn Diagrams of people’s lives as they interact, slip away, and then come into contact with someone else who can complete the tale rather than a traditional novel. The format feels innovative and new — parts of the book are told out of chronological order, some characters flicker in and out like fireflies, but Egan masterfully holds it all together with deft strokes and impressive sentences. I could not put this novel down.

Here’s the reading scenario: my son has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Yes, it’s as awful as it sounds. We spend a miserable evening at the emergency room in Peterborough for them to tell us that it’s a “virus.” He ran a fever of 104. He turned the colour of a lobster. My heart would not stop racing. And we spent a miserable night in the middle of a heat wave with him sobbing and trying to gain control over his fever — Egan’s novel was the only thing that kept me sane that night. I held him and read it. I rocked him and read it. He slept on me, and I read it. And when his fever didn’t break the next day and we had to head home to see the family doctor to get a further diagnosis (he had stopped eating and drinking at this point too), when I forgot the book in a panic to get home, I was devastated.

It’s a book, people. (more…)

July 27th, 2011

#55 – Bossypants by Tina Fey

BossypantsSummer reading generally means three things to me: extremely popular bestsellers, chunky classics that I never get around to finishing, and chicklit. I know I shouldn’t consider Bossypants chicklit, but, in a way, to me, it was. I am not downplaying Tina Fey’s obvious feminism or her ability to spin a good yarn — but it’s more the sense of where her comedy comes from, a deeply funny, incredibly awesome redefinition of girlie. She’s confident without being boastful, extremely thankful of all of her hard-won opportunities, but also wickedly aware of her own limitations, and the limitations of a “Hollywood” life. Maybe I’m reading too much into it — because it’s really more of a series of vignettes than narrative nonfiction, which made for incredibly easy reading. Perfect for a week at the cottage by yourself with an infant.

I laughed out loud and I found so much of Fey’s self-deprecating humour, her voice, and her ability to find a positive message for women in just about every situation that it’s hard to remember what a force for change she remains in the “industry” (I say that like I am actually “in” any “industry”). I never found the read tedious like so many celebrity “memoirs” (and yes, it deserves air quotes, come on, you know it does). It doesn’t feel ghostwritten or contain any deep-seeded confessions that turn my stomach a little even though I’m dying to read them anyway, ahem, Ashley Judd (let me tell you, when I was a tween, bedtime reading was Mommie Dearest; I know, it says a lot about me. In fact, Mommie Dearest coupled with Sweet Valley High, Louisa-May Alcott and Anne of Green Gables — not much has changed all these years later).

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August 5th, 2010

Summer Reading: A Catch Up Edition

I have a huge list of books to get caught up on in terms of keeping track of my reading here in the blog. As I doubt I’ll find the time to create individual posts for every book I’ve read since the beginning of July, I’m going to do one big post here, and then try very hard for the rest of the summer to update here more than once a month.

#24 – Shadow Tag
This was the very first book I read for my new book club. I’d read Louise Erdrich back in university and remembered enjoying Love Medicine very much. Shadow Tag, with its semi-autobiographic overtones and extremely dark subject matter, was an unsettling novel. It’s not even that you can’t trust the protagonist, or that she’s an unreliable narrator; it’s more that both Irene and her husband Gil are truly, completely unlikeable. They lie to one another, feed off each other’s insecurities, have a terrible, damaging relationship, and ultimately aren’t the best parents to their three children. The writing is terrific but I consistently go back and forth on the age-old debate in my head — can I really enjoy a book when I hate the characters? We had an amazing discussion about the novel, about their motivation to stay together, about the destructive nature of art in the book, and about both of their selfish, selfish behavior. It’s an intense novel, be prepared for that should you decide to delve in.

#25 – Freedom
I’m not sure how much to say about Franzen’s latest novel because I read a work galley (well, I begged to borrow a work galley and it’s my ONLY copy) and the book isn’t being published for another few weeks. However, I will say this — it’s a terrifically engaging chunk of a book that follows the lives of the Berglund family. Like The Corrections, Franzen writes so convincingly about American life that it’s impossible not to get emotionally involved in the lives of these characters. It’s an excellent novel.

#26 – I’d Know You Anywhere
The same goes for the new Laura Lippman. She’s one of my favourite commercial fiction writers — her stories are always page-turners and her characters always have issues to overcome that develop into rich, realistic plot lines — you never feel like she sacrifices anything for the story, it’s relentless. Her latest novel is no exception. Eliza Benedict has worked hard to create a very particular kind of life for herself — until the man who abducted her when she was a teenager tracks her down and asks something of her she isn’t necessarily prepared to give. The novel reminded me in a way of Barbara Gowdy’s Helpless in the way it gives a bird’s eye view of not only the victim, but the criminal as well. It’s a captivating novel — perfect for summer reading.

#27 – We Have Always Lived In The Castle
Oh my goodness I adored Shirley Jackson’s macabre, Gothic novel. This was another book club book and what an awesome choice it was. Merricat (Mary Katherine) Blackwood and her sister Constance live in a run-down old manor house with their Uncle Julian. Years ago her entire family was killed by a fatal dose of arsenic-laced strawberries during dinner. Constance, the elder sister, was accused of the crime, and then tried, but found innocent. However, the townspeople have never quite forgiven her, and so Merricat (an 18 year-old who acts far more like a 12 year-old) and Constance have somewhat shut themselves up against the world. That is, until their cousin Charles arrives and throws their world in chaos. It’s a delicious, deceptively simple novel, and we all raved about it at book club. I comped it to the best of Flannery O’Connor with even more edge, if that’s possible.

#28 – Mr. Shakespeare’s Bastard
Richard B. Wright remains one of those Canadian authors, like Jane Urquhart or Michael Ondaatje, that I’ll read anything they write. If they wrote a grocery list, I’d probably read and enjoy it. His latest novel, Mr. Shakespeare’s Bastard, feels like a departure, and that’s not a bad thing. While I loved October, I felt like it had a definite place in the Canadian canon — it was almost as if he was actively trying to write back to Hugh MacLennan. With this new novel, I feel like he’s moved into decidedly new territory. It’s a hybrid kind of novel — one part historical fiction (the book’s protagonist is the bastard daughter of Wm Shakespeare), one part typical literary fiction, and one part juicy page turner. Aerlene Ward has lived her entire life with a secret: William Shakespeare was her father. As she gets on in age, she feels the need to tell her story and enlists the help of Charlotte, the youngest daughter in the manor house where she’s been the housekeeper for all of her adult life. It’s a rich tale — both as its told and as it was lived — and Wright has a keen ear for Elizabethan London. The biggest issue that I have with so much historical fiction is the romance-novel-ness of them all. This book isn’t that, while I can see how it would appeal to the biggest fans of Philippa Gregory, it’s so much richer in how the historical details are integrated into the fabric of the story. These are strong, interesting women, and there’s an apt feminist critique to be explored upon a more educational reading of the novel. Anyway, I’ve got high hopes for this book for the fall — I really want many, many people to love it as much as I did. We’re doing a Savvy Reader read-along post for it that should be live in the next couple weeks.

#29 – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Like the rest of the universe, I finally went back and read the first of Steig Larsson’s ridiculously addictive series. I’m glad I did, if only to fully understand how all three books fit together, and to see how Lisbeth and Blomkvist actually meet for the first time. We watched the film the other night, and I found it almost better than the book — while definitely not as detailed, it was far more streamlined, which I appreciated. As much as I find these great books, great social experiments in how a book can “tip,” sometimes the writing is clunky, the dialogue terrible, and there’s just too much detail. And I enjoyed seeing the Swedish landscape if only to give myself a visual picture to accompany the reading experience in my head. I read this book on my iPad with the Kobo application and found that there were some layout issues with the text that made transitions a little awkward but overall I think it’s the perfect way of reading commercial fiction. It’s not a book that I’m dying to keep — it’s an impulse, something I want to read right now and steam through, and knowing I don’t have to pawn off a physical copy on a friend was a relief.

#30 – The Help
Now, this novel truly surprised me. From the cover, it screams “Oprah” and “Nicholas Sparks,” but because it’s my job to know what kinds of books sell like stink, I figured it would be another good one to try on my iPad. This time, I used the Kindle application, and I found it just that teeny bit superior to the Kobo (mainly in the fact that it gives an accurate idea of where you are in a book), but there’s really little difference between the two as a reading application for the basic stuff that I need (good bookmarks, easy navigation, etc). Annywaaay, The Help. I bawled like a baby by the end of it, found myself reading until 4 AM one night at the cottage when I couldn’t sleep and realizing it’s just a really good novel. Set in Jackson, Mississippi smack-dab in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, The Help entwines the stories of the young white women who form the “society” of the area with the black women who they consider their “help.” From debate over why separate bathrooms IN ONE HOUSE for the women who feed, clothe, bathe, and raise their children to Miss Skeeter’s desperate ‘Peggy in Mad Men-esque’ quest to get out of her Southern life entirely, the novel keeps you emotionally invested from beginning to end. Stockett writes convincingly from both perspectives and the payoff at the end was impeccable.

#31 – Locavore

When the iBookstore launched at the beginning of July, I bought a few of our books so I could make sure they worked. Sarah Elton’s look at the local food movement from a Canadian perspective had been on my TBR pile forever. I did a lot of work with her when the book first came out and she’s just such a lovely author (but that’s an aside). She has a very easy-going writing style and her way into the topic (from a pink sugar cookie made in China in her daughter’s loot bag) was both personal and intriguing. There were so many things that I didn’t know and so many interesting, new perspectives about the local food issues that Elton puts forth that I learned a lot. How wrong was my assumption that once I’d read Pollan and Kingsolver that there was nothing left to know about the locavore movement. This is a book for anyone remotely interested in the issues surrounding the food we eat — and even if you aren’t, it’s a great primer to get you started. But my favourite part of Elton’s perspective isn’t a holier than thou approach, it’s more “do the best you can; it all helps in the end.” And I feel like this suits my life — we buy local where possible, support farmer’s markets, grow our own veggies, and balance out the more exotic aspects of your eating with better choices. I LOVED this book.

#32 – The Lovers
I have so much respect and admiration for Vendela Vida. Not just because she leads an obviously envious life and is bloody gorgeous, but because she’s an exquisite writer whose craft I covet every time I read a sentence of hers. Yet, this novel disappointed me. It lacked the emotional resonance that reverberated so nicely through Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, and the tragic event posited by the jacket copy to “rock” the protagonist, Yvonne, to her core, felt contrived and even stereotypical when looked at in context. It felt very Hollywood, this novel, and maybe I was just expecting too much from Vida because I pushed her earlier book on every single person I know. So, in short, Yvonne, a middle-aged widow, visits Turkey, the site of her honeymoon, to try and figure out how to move on with her life. She’s had a good life, but one with issues, and she starts to unravel the more time she spends trying to ‘find’ herself in relation to who she once was: mother, teacher, wife. The setting, at once meant to invoke her past and perhaps spurn Yvonne into a sense of self-discovery, becomes exotic and strange to her. And then, things start to go very awry when she befriends a young Turkish boy visiting his grandmother. There could have been such a rich palette to explore so much in the book but Vida doesn’t drift beyond the superficial in a way. You never truly feel like you know Yvonne, and maybe that’s on purpose, but the whole novel felt incomplete to me, especially the ending.

#33 – Secrets of Eden
And, again, here’s another of my favourite novelists with new books that fell short of my expectations. I adore Chris Bohjalian’s books — even his critical misfires work for me, unlike many, many reviewers, I really liked the trippy nature of The Double Bind and didn’t even mind his last book, Skeletons at the Feast despite its truly awful cover. But Secrets of Eden, well, it failed to impress either with the moral premise underneath the story or by its storytelling. Like in Vida’s novel, the “twist” at the end felt very much like an M. Night Shyamalan film — far, far too apparent from too early on and really quite stereotypical for my tastes. The whole book felt like a Law and Order episode but without any convincing or interesting characters. I find the complex nature of religious characters in novels interesting — but I’ll turn to Marilynne Robinson when I want to explore it in more depth — Bohjalian used it to very obviously pit “good” against apparent “evil” and in this case it didn’t work. Oh, the plot, right: a reverend loses a member of his flock, a woman who had been abused by her husband, and becomes accused of the murder when she and said partner are found dead the morning after her baptism. Enter a very famous writer who has made plenty of money writing about angels. They become involved, which, of course, casts even more suspicion on the poor Reverend Stephen Drew. Yawn. Yes, I know, I’m being sarcastic, but the book was truly tedious in places. Anyway, nothing will stop me from reading Bohjalian, because I adore his fiction, but this just wasn’t the book for me.

#34 – The Big Short
Wow, was this a dynamo of a nonfiction book. Michael Lewis examines the financial crisis in such a detailed and fascinating way that it’s impossible NOT to think of the yahoos on Wall Street as crooks by the end of it. While the book has a LOT of technical jargon as it relates to the financial markets, it’s not remotely dry. In fact, it’s just the opposite — it’s utterly riveting and totally fascinating. He breaks down the few characters who managed to short the crisis even before it began, including a hedge fund owner whose driving characteristic is his Asperger’s, along with a few “outsider” funds who actually took the time to investigate the market and pull it apart at the seams — primarily to find the ways of making huge amounts of money from what they could see coming: a total collapse of the system. It’s incredible that the US government propped up the big investment houses, essentially rewarded them for their stupidity, and then they turned around and rewarded themselves with huge bonuses, and, well, got to all keep their jobs. Billions upon billions of dollars with hidden paper trails and bad trades are lost, unknown or hidden from the general public, just so we can keep the illusion that the big investment banks actually had any idea of what was happening. I’d highly recommend this to anyone remotely interested in why the US is such a mess these days — it’s just utterly captivating and you will shake your head in amazement that not a single person stopped the madness before it all collapsed. Anyway, it’s a great, great read.

Whew. That’s about it — I’m sure there are a couple of books that I’ve probably forgotten but that’s about the extent of my summer reading so far. I’m so behind in my reading in general this year that it’s nice to just have a big stack of books out of the way before the insanity of the fall creeps up on us.

January 14th, 2010

#3 – Her Fearful Symmetry

Let me start off with a confession, as so many of my book reviews do (which leads me to ask one simple question: does anyone actually care about what I confess?), I hated The Time Traveler’s Wife. I found Niffenegger’s book to be slightly absurd, overwritten, and ridiculously implausible. In a way, I guess you could say I wasn’t a fan of supernatural romance.

With that in mind, I have no idea why I wanted to read Her Fearful Symmetry in the first place. I mean, the book got terrible reviews, and even the somewhat kind piece by Emma Donoghue in the Globe hits upon the novel’s central flaw: that too much symmetry makes a bit of a mess of a book. Yet, I was utterly intrigued. And, last night I stayed up way, way passed my bedtime to finish it. In fact, I turned off the light, closed my eyes, tossed and turned for a bit, thought about the book, got up, turned the light BACK ON, and then read the last 150 pages. What kind of a book does that?

The story opens as Elspeth Noblin dies from cancer. Her ravaged body is held by her lover of many years, Robert, and it’s sad. A tad cliched, terribly overwritten, but sad nonetheless (all of the things that annoyed me about the first book). But I was so engrossed by the sheer force of Niffenegger’s story that I almost missed my bus. And buses in Toronto are loud. And I was standing rightnext to the stop.

Elspeth leaves the bulk of her estate to her nieces, the daughters of her twin sister Edie, with whom she hasn’t spoken in over 20 years. It’s not a straightforward kind of will, for what kind of novel would include such boring, plot-sucking details as that, and Elspeth demands: a) that the twins, Julia and Valentina (ugh, that name, ugh) must live in her flat for one year and b) their parents, Edie and Jack, are never to set foot in the apartment.

The girls, who are mirror twins, are looking for an adventure. Julia, aggressive, demanding, controlling, pretty much makes decisions on behalf of Valentina. And Valentina, desperate to get away and have her own life, simply can’t figure out how to break the bond. These problems are somewhat cyclical, something akin to what their mother and Elspeth must have gone through when they were young.

Once in London, and this won’t spoil the story too much, they’re literally and metaphorically haunted by Elspeth. She’s a force in the novel: both as a character who left behind gaping holes after her death (for her lover Robert, for her family) and as a paranormal spirit who simply can’t move beyond the confines of the very apartment she willed to the girls. Lots of creepy stuff happens. Lots of silly stuff happens too.

The setting of the novel aptly reflects the atmosphere Niffenegger tries to create — the apartment building, which contains Robert, Elspeth and Martin’s homes collectively (Martin is an older gentleman whose wife, Marijke, has just left him because he refuses treatment for his highly advanced case of OCD) sits right beside Highgate Cemetary. And Robert, an historian who’s finishing his PhD thesis, works as a graveyard tour guide. Their lives swirl and intersect around one another, relationships develop, both romantic and friendly, and it’s this part of the book that I enjoyed the most — the “up and move to London” portions.

However beyond the fascinatingly banal everyday life sections, Her Fearful Symmetry moves into the absurd. The sections where the implausible happens were the hardest for me to get through. What I honestly loved about this book were the parts with OCD Martin. As a girl who knows and understands what those compulsions are like, I found his character, his struggles, incredibly moving and effective. I was less convinced by the last third of the novel, and wholly disappointed in the book’s main twist. Yet, as I said above, I stayed up way, way beyond my usual bedtime just so I could find out what happened. It’s a rare writer who can capture your attention like that and not let it go.

Was this book worthy of Niffenegger’s massive advance? Probably not. It’s terribly overwritten and full of needless details. Is it worthy of being on the bestseller lists? I’d hesitate, and then say yes, if only so the publisher can recoup their advance, but also temper my negativity by giving the book an overall thumbs up for being a truly enjoyable commercial read.

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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