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Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday makes you question beauty in imperfections

3rd April, 2017

Asymmetry is an exploration of love, relationships, age, politics and how fiction can help us understand a bit of what we don’t, or make us accept that we don’t need to understand everything and everyone. asymmetrical novel

Symmetry; Asymmetry. I knew as soon as I read the name of the title that I need to read this debut. This year I have been reading some excellent debuts, Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan being another one. Coming back to Halliday’s debut,  there is something about this book and the blurb that made me feel human – maybe the imperfection (literal meaning) in the title or the creases on the cover of the book; I don’t know. I was pulled to the novel as soon as I got it in my hands. Asymmetry, true to the name, is asymmetrical in every way; be it the sections loosely knit together or the fleeting thoughts of the characters.

The novel is divided into three parts.  The first, Folly, concerns the romance of Alice, a young editor in her mid-twenties, and her relationship with Ezra Blazer, a much older, prominent author. The lovers are spaced apart in beliefs, tastes, attitudes and health yet there is something between them; a jagged and asymmetric connection. While Alice is trying to find herself and discover what she wants to write, Ezra is much farther ahead on the road looking back at his achievements.

The second section titled Madness, is the story of Amar, an American born of Iraqi immigrants. Amar has to spend a layover in London questioned by the airport authorities before he can board his flight.  He finds himself thrown back to the deepest coves of his memory of his past. As he waits, he (or maybe the reader) ponders on the asymmetry between East and West as well as political consequences on individual lives. In the final section, Ezra tells an interviewer what music he would choose to have with him should he become stranded on a desert island. He makes some crude jokes that change our understanding of the character we were introduced to in Folly.

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

...trying to connect the dots...

True to it’s name, the sections seem like pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit together. I was engrossed in the book for Folly, which made me feel as if the confused lovers are whispering their thoughts aloud. Dialogues and conversations gracing this section made me feel connected to the characters. The story unravels through phone conversations, thoughts in bed and visits to the hospital. However, some of the references in Folly were lost on me since I am not familiar with them. The second section, Madness, had a charming premise presented in the form of flashbacks. I had a love-hate relationship with Amar’s story because the story slanted asymptotically to unnecessary details quite often. The third section is an interview transcript made me question if Ezra is the same person I had seen through Alice’s eyes.

Final Verdict :

I might say this book was too clever for my understanding. Folly was my favourite section among the three included in the novel. However I failed to see how everything could connect together (which is like looking for cake in a cookie jar because the title clearly speaks loud the theme of ‘asymmetry’).  Though the individual stories held well on their own, they seemed disjointed. I assume this is an intentional technique from the author judging by the name of the novel. Asymmetry is a compelling read, but it could also be a hit or miss.

Title : Asymmetry
Author : Lisa Halliday
Publisher : Granta
Publication: 2018
Language : English
Pages : 272
Rating : 3/5

Disclaimer : Much thanks to Granta for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

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