I picked up Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday because I had heard really good things about it. It’s on a number of Best Books of 2018 lists, and people I know who read a lot of Books Smart People Like either want to read it or read it and loved it.
I did not like it.
Asymmetry is three novellas in one. In the first, a twentysomething editorial assistant named Alice has a relationship with a very famous and successful author in his 60s named Ezra (he’s based on Philip Roth). In the second novella, an Iraqi-American named Amar is detained at Heathrow airport en route home to Iraq to see his family. And in the third, the same author, Ezra, from the first section is interviewed about his favorite music of all time and why it is influenced him. The third section allegedly ties the first two together.
So. Asymmetry is one of those books that I. Just. Didn’t. Get. The first section was good. I liked Halliday’s depiction of relationship between the woman and the author, and all the ways he both pushed her away and drew her to him at the same time. I could have taken a whole book about these two. But then the second part came along, and it’s just so… boring. The scenes at the airport are moderately interesting (what happens to him, though? does he ever make it to Iraq?) but there is all this meandering stuff in between, about the man’s life leading up to the detention, including his childhood and his ex-girlfriend and his career and his grandmother’s house and oh my god I had to skim it. Then there’s the random Desert Island Disc section, where you learn a little more about Ezra and the different music he liked.
This book lost me pretty early on and never got me back.
So, other than some good writing and a compelling story of a basically inappropriate relationship, what was the point of Asymmetry and why do people love it so much? I am waiting for my dad to read it so he can explain it to me. If you’ve read it, please weigh in and tell me what it is that I missed.