Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, July 18, 2019

"Asymmetry" by Lisa Halliday

I really enjoyed reading this perfect little book. It's so well-written, seeming genuine and immediate without any of the boring bits that are inevitable in real life.

The book is written with two main parts. The first part is about Alice Dodge, a young editor in New York City who forms an unexpected relationship with a famous old writer. It felt so authentic that I couldn't help but wonder if it were a bit autobiographical (not the entire thing, but a lot of the minutiae). But then the next part was about an Iraqui-American who is detained at Heathrow, which felt just as amazingly authentic. I knew, based on the tiny bio about the author, that it couldn't be autobiographical, but it was so real that it seemed like the narrator must have told this story to the author and she just wrote it down. So (assuming this wasn't the case) I was, in a word, impressed.

The book ends with a brief (if slightly tangential) return to the first story, and I wondered if it would tie in to the second story, but (unless I missed something) it didn't. So I am left feeling a little bit baffled and a little bit stupid as I try to understand why these two stories are bound together. I suppose it could be as simple as the fact that the author wrote two perfect gems which, alone, were too short to publish successfully, but that solution is a little bit disappointing. The stories do explore similar themes (made obvious by the book's title), and I want to believe that the author intended to link the two stories from the start, but I find myself wishing there had been more of an overlap between the plots or characters or even just the locations. I wouldn't want it to be too blatant, or forced, but . . . I guess I was just left craving a bit of symmetry.

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