Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

When Henry first saw Clare, he thought she was beautiful and captivating. Clare on the other hand was astonished to see Henry looking so young. 'The Time Traveler's Wife' follows the story of Clare and Henry. Henry has a rare disorder which means that he inadvertently time travels. When he does he just disappears to a random point in the past or the future (usually within 50 years either way). When he goes he can take nothing with him, including clothes. Henry must learn how to survive his condition and the perils associated with it. Clare must learn to love Henry, despite never knowing if she will wake up beside him in the morning and the side effects of Henry's condition. Is it really possible to happy as the time traveler's wife?

Its hard to sum up what this book is about in an interesting way without giving too much away. The concept is simple, Henry time travels. Unlike H G Well's time machine inventor, or Marty McFly, Henry can't take anything with him and has no control over where or when he goes. It's a good twist to what might otherwise be another time travel story. Henry must survive his condition anyway he can and so you end up with amusing scenarios when he's teaching a younger version of himself to pick pocket or he ends up in fight because he's managed to steal some very unusual clothing. Added to this mix is Clare, who is head over heels in love with Henry and some how manages to put up with the bizarre events as they unfold. It was a good book, well written, and tugged at the heart strings.

I think it's a good book on the imperfections of relationships. Nothing is perfect, least of all love. Niffenegger manages to illustrate this in numerous ways and shows that even the best relationships have their crosses to bare. For Clare and Henry this is coping with the unpredictability of his condition and Clare's desperation for a child which Henry does not necessarily share 100%. Each of them is able to reach some level of understanding about the other to cope though. Clare accepts to an extent Henry's condition and lives with it, while Henry is able to see what it means to Clare to have a child (and ultimately helps her to do so).

Any book that involves moving backwards and forwards in time and space at random is going to have a difficult job keeping their audience from total confusion. This has to be one of the best efforts I've read though. Yes, there is always a small element of confusion, but I feel it adds something to the book. It echoes the confusion of the characters at various points (e.g. Henry when he *first* meets Clare when he's 28, Clare's confusion at times in her youth about Henry, various members of Clare's family feeling like they've seen Henry before, Gomez's confusion over seeing Clare and Henry together when he's supposedly dating someone else etc etc). Yet for the most part you could still follow the storyline.

It is a very cleverly crafted book, with characters with depth and enough imperfections to keep them interesting. Even Alba sounds slightly pretentious when we meet her at the age of 10. It's what keeps the story real. No angels and no devils. It makes the characters feel like real people, even goody-two-shoes Clare has her faults.

It's definitely worth picking up and trying.

*4 stars*


Anonymous said...

This is a book that sounded stupid...but was completely captivating.

I have to say that it is now an all-time favorite.

Self Confessed Walkover said...

I have to agree. When my Mum was trying to explain it was about this guy who could time travel and his wife I instantly started thinking H G Wells, Star Trek, sci-fi in general. Hard to believe it could be given that she wouldn't touch that sort of thing with a barge pole but hey!

It's definitely one to try despite the synopsis!

Anonymous said...

I have to commend you for reading this book. I went to the library to check it out and got intimidated by the mere size of it! I'll have to save it for a rainy day, or week, or maybe month even.

Self Confessed Walkover said...

You have to be really careful when choosing what books to read, you don't want to get turned off reading! So don't worry if a book looks too long for you, if thats not for you it's not for you so move on. Theres too much pressure to read the 'best' books around but really, its entirely up to you what you read so ignore the snobs :)

Anonymous said...

guys how do you think niffeneger presents the character of henry and clare in diffrent points of the lives