Asymmetry is one of the novels I received at the OLA Super Conference I attended in January. I find the cover to this novel attractive and perfectly suited to the title: the colours are eye-catching, and reflect the title of the novel. The folded paper shown is asymmetrical, and the buildings in the photo are not all the same height.
Asymmetry refers to something that lacks symmetry, or equality. This theme is shown in the snapshot of the American lives that Halliday has chosen to describe in her novel. Her novel is divided into three sections and, in each section, we meet Americans. The first section, titled Folly, describes a love affair between a mature well-known author who is Jewish and a much younger woman. The second section, titled Madness, describes the experience of a man travelling to visit his brother in Iraq and is detained at Heathrow. The third section returns to one of the characters the reader has already met.
So much happens in this novel on so many levels. Halliday shows us the inequities in age; the power one has within society, how race plays a part in our experience of the world. She questions, too, the justice of certain actions; as well as moves into a narrative questioning the art of writing itself. The novel is filled with beautifully crafted sentences which raises questions in our minds. And yet no answer is given. As I finished the novel, I was left with a sense that no solution may exist to answer the questions posed by the author.
Asymmetry is not a novel in the usual sense. It has no beginning and no ending. We turn the last page knowing no answers with regards to the characters in the story. Instead we are asked to focus on the social questions that are raised in the novel; and to think about the art form of writing. While reading this novel, my mind fled back to my university years when I was studying novels for their literary contribution to the English language. This work, I feel, could be easily be added to those university book lists for students to study.
This book is an excellent read for those willing to move out of the mainstream popular reads and into a genre that encourages thought and raises questions.
Do you enjoy reading literary books?
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018
(This novel was the eighth in my 50 book pledge for 2018)