Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Review of The Time Traveler's Wife

Up all night with a miserable baby (ear infection), I finally finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Justin and I decided to read it together last summer (we like to read to each other on drives) and we wanted to read it before we saw the movie. I read the first few chapters to him. The emotion of the story immediately clenched my heart. But...then there was this love scene... We were both slightly uncomfortable reading these kinds of things to each other and the book was left on the back seat of the car for awhile.

I finally picked it up again a couple of months ago and finally finished it in the wee hours of this morning.

It's poignant. It's emotional. The concept is clever and well-executed. I love books that can pull of present tense narration. I think well-used present tense gives a story credibility and immediacy. The story was the telling of a unique love story. It didn't really get into the quantum mechanics of time-travel too much and the theories of pre-destination and whatnot.

Some interesting points:

Our hero Henry is a time traveler. He has a condition that comes to be known as chrono-impairment. He can't control his travel, where he goes and when it happens. But he his spontaneous travels frequently take him to his wife Clare's childhood home as she is growing up. The first time they meet, she is six and he is in his thirties. He appears frequently throughout her childhood, helping her with homework and befriending her. As she grows old enough, he reveals to her that they will be married someday. He is her future husband.

When adult Clare meets Henry in the present day, she instantly recognizes him. She has found her future husband! Yet Henry doesn't know this. This young, present day Henry has never met Clare. So on their first date, she reveals to him that they are going to be married.

This makes me wonder if either of them ever had a chance at loving/marrying anyone else. From the time she was young, Clare knew she would marry Henry. Never a second thought. The future held that and she knew it. When present-day Henry first meets Clare, she tells him that his future self has assured her they will be married. Just the way it is. Luckily, they never really doubted each other or thought, "I guess I'm gonna end up with this person, but what was I thinking? Couldn't I have done better?"

I wonder if it was some sort of acceptance. Or maybe their love was that instant and true. I just can't imagine myself in that situation and feeling a bit forced. Especially Henry. Clare had her whole childhood to get used to the idea. It was very sudden for Henry.

There is a brief period when Clare realizes she fallen in love with a more mature, wizened Henry and this young present-day Henry is a bit cocky and self-centered. She knows she's essential in forming into the man he's going to be - the man she fell in love with. Maybe without that knowledge she wouldn't have seen it through.

the author, audrey niffenegger

Another interesting point is the unconditional love Henry and Clare develop for each other. Despite the degradation of looks and the scars that come from time, aging is never an issue for them. Sixteen-year-old Clare loves 28 year old Henry as much as she loves 42 year-old Henry. It doesn't creep her out that one day her "boyfriend" shows up in his twenties and the next time he shows up, he's two decades older.

Same with Henry. He'll leave his present-day wife and find himself helping his ten-year-old wife with her French homework. He loves her purely. As she matures, he longs for her no matter her age. He kisses her when she is fifteen. He even sees her in the future as an old woman. And always to him it's just his beautiful Clare.

At first that concept was kind of creepy to me. But when I imagine what it would be like if I could see my husband as a child, I think I would do the same thing. I wouldn't love him any less, that's for sure. I would love him differently, love him in the way he needed to be loved at his age.

To me, it really shows a display of constant, unconditional love.

While the book was engaging, it wasn't a page-turner. We know so much of how it is going to end. There is no suspense because we see glimpses of the future. However, it did become fun when scenes from the past, future, and present would click together like puzzle pieces. I might re-read the book and have a new understanding of how this certain scene affects our heroes' lives later on.

Now for the things I didn't like. While those things are few, they are potent.

Language, language, language. While it's not totally peppered with swears, they are there. And the worst ones you can imagine. What really bugged me was how each Henry and Clare referred to some of their body parts with the worst, most offensive slang terms that exist. It seemed really out of character to me because in general, they are these educated, refined intelligent people. Even in their own private thoughts it seemed out of character to think such crude words, especially about themselves.

Lots of love scenes. And not the "unfocused camera pans to the window but you still know what's going on" kind of love scenes. There are some pretty explicit descriptions. And again, there were a lot of them. Look, I know Clare and Henry are married and married people do certain things, but it got to the point that it broke the story for me and I really started to think about the author, Ms. Niffenegger, and how deprived her personal life must be to have to go on and on about this kind of stuff.

The author should always be invisible in story telling. So the fact that I started to think about her a lot tells me something. Maybe it was because she's an MFA professor. I kept thinking, "If I were your student, I couldn't look you in the eye during class." And the other thought, "What does your father think of this?"

It was those things that made me put down the book. It wasn't a page turner for me. I very nearly didn't finish it. But the emotion was so beautiful and pure that it pulled me in enough to finish it. I cried numerous times. Beautiful story.

the movie stars rachel mccadams and eric bana

I'm excited to see the movie now. I know the movie is PG-13 so it can't contain a lot of the things that turned me off about the book. If it captures the emotion as provacatively and leaves out the language and loving, then it should be a really good movie.

Please don't judge me for reading this. :) I don't know if I can recommend it based on the things I didn't like, but I can't exactly say I regret reading it. The good parts were REALLY good.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ashley said...

Now I'm totally curious. Gonna have to give it a go.

Groff Family said...

Whenever a comment is removed by the blog administrator I get uber curious.

Anyway, I think that Rachel McAdams is the most beautiful woman alive. I don't know that I would read that book. Not for the reasons that you said, but mostly because I NEVER get time to read anymore and I have about 25 other books, on hand, that I would love to read. Some day....


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