Asymmetry | Book Review

Title: Asymmetry

Author: Lisa Halliday

Series: n/a

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 6th February 2018

Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, “Folly” tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, Folly also suggests an aspiring novelist’s coming-of-age. By contrast, “Madness” is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.

The first section “Folly” was probably my favourite out of the three as I enjoyed Alice’s narration. The relationship between Alice and Ezra I found to be quite interesting as it feels awfully mundane in terms of their interactions, but then you get the occasional reminder on their vast age difference of ~40/50 years in the form of him needing a back operation, etc. There’s also Alice’s obvious admiration of the author which makes her feel majorly inferior in her eyes, thereby affecting their relationship. This, combined with Ezra’s care and concern for her, makes for romantic relationship containing aspects belonging more to a father/daughter or student/mentor bond.

The second part “Madness” I found a lot more arduous to get through as I felt a lack of connection between myself and the narrator, Amar, meaning it was quite hard to get into. This part is written whilst Amar is detained in Heathrow Airport, wanting to travel to Iraq to visit his brother, and the story dovetails between his real-time interactions in the airport and flashbacks on his experiences growing up. Due to this, I found it quite hard to follow what was going on, therefore not being able to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked.

The last part “Ezra Blazer’s Desert Island Discs” is where everything is supposedly meant to be brought together in a big revelation for the reader and unfortunately for me that didn’t seem to be the case. This section is set out as though it is a typical interview for the show – which in case you didn’t know, is a radio show where a famous individual explains the tracks which make up the ‘soundtrack of their lives’, explaining what each piece means to them. Although it didn’t result in the “unexpected coda” the blurb claimed it would, it did shine a light on Ezra’s experiences growing up and gave a deeper insight into his character, which we previously hadn’t seen due to only viewing him through Alice’s eyes.

I found Asymmetry to be a rather underwhelming read on the whole. The writing of the author was fairly pleasant to read and the characters were well-written, however I didn’t feel as though all three parts were well-connected, or at least in an obvious way. Since reading it I’ve read some other reviews detailing what the author was aiming to achieve and in all fairness it seems interesting, but coming from the viewpoint of the average reader who isn’t going to analyse the themes running through the book in great detail, it seems a slightly too out-there to add to the reading experience of the book. Especially as  it’s not something that can be enjoyed whilst reading but only on later reflection.

If you’re looking for a book in which the author is trying to present big ideas and themes through reflection and analysis, then by all means give it a read, however, if you’re aiming to read for simple enjoyment then I’d recommend to maybe give this book a pass.

Rating : 2.5/5

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