Asymmetry – Lisa Halliday

What a book! I first heard about Asymmetry on Anne Bogel’s What should I read next? podcast. After a few months, I decided to give it a try and I can sincerly say that it lived up to my expectations. 

The story starts when Alice, a books editor in her mid-twenties, encounters Ezra Blazer, a famous writer in his sixties. The two will get into a particular relationship as they embark on a journey of mutual learning from one another : Ezra will help Alice with her dream of writing a book through literary gifts and some advice while Alice sprinkles her youthfulness and vibrant energy to distract him from the reality of aging. 

The second part unfolds with the arrival of Ammar Alaa Jaafari, an Iraqi-American Economist, at Heathow where he will be held for hours to answer thorough border control interrogations. He takes the time waiting as an opportunity to look back on his life: his Ivy League education, his childhood and most importantly the way his Iraqi origins have prevented him from travelling freely. 

There is something very specific that I loved about this book : the structure. Lisa Halliday has chosen a binary novel structure in which each story has its own dualities. On one hand, Alice’s story explores the asymmetry between youth and old age, ambition and achievement. On the other hand, Ammar’s story analyzes the asymmetry between the West and the East, the state and the individual.

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