For my Book Club this month, we decided to tackle “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. (I hope none of you book club people read this, because our meeting is Sunday night). First off, I just want to say, this novel was leaps and bounds better than I had originally thought it was going to be.
I completed its’ 500 or so pages in less than 10 days, which is higher than average for me, and I found it’s structure very accommodating and pleasing. The three parts, several chapters, different perspectives, years and ages I thought were going to lead to a convoluted novel that was hard to follow, but I find it flowed very nicely, and was not in any way difficult to keep track of. Mind you, that being said I didn’t do the math in my head of how old Henry should be in that particular year, but as long as you had a general idea based on other surrounding events it made complete sense, and I’ll just take Audrey’s word for how old he was supposed to be and when.
I would also like to point out, that unlike with Atonement, I had not seen the film prior to reading the book. In fact, I have not even seen the film at all yet. I even made a point of not looking at which actors were playing the characters, so as to not colour my mental image of them in the book as described by Audrey. Which is ideal I think.
The main characters were very well developed, and had to be, because this story incorporates the majority of their entire lives. The secondary characters were more or less just touched on, other than Henry’s family including Kimy. I felt Clare’s mother wasn’t used enough as influence, and her condition wasn’t explained as clearly as it could have been. She is, after all, Clare’s mother and whether or not her and Clare had an excellent or terrible relationship, she would have had more of a significant influence on her life and choices. At least, that’s what I think.
The story itself was very unique, and I can honestly say it was not predictable at all. I had a few guesses as to how it was going to end, but I was very wrong. The way the author explains the nature of Henry’s time travel makes it come across as completely normal and by the fifth or so page, you really are OK with it, and wish everyone else would just understand as well as you so Henry wouldn’t have to fight his whole life. The nakedness is an irritating touch as well; Poor guy. But as I said, this book is fantastic and I would hightly recommend it to anyone who wants a new kind of love story. It’s great too because it’s not all mushy, and typical upper-middle-class suburban living like I had anticipated. It’s very real, in a city-living way, with a unique artistic cultured background, with throwbacks to retro music and style.
What I would like to know, is how Henry managed to get a Masters in Library Science with his condition. Popping in and out of exams wouldn’t go over well I’d imagine. And I’m not exactly impressed with the author leaving out his entire Post-Secondary educational experience. I guess we just have to understand that he did manage to do it, and get a great job in an awesome city library that I would kill for (no personal bias there whatsoever ;)… I promise)
I felt a lot of different emotions while reading this book, as I’m sure I was supposed to. I felt anger at Clare’s mother as well as Henry’s father. I was suspicious of Gomez from the second we met him, and felt sorry for Ingrid. I was also very involved with their attempt to have a child, and when Clare went into labour with the fear of Henry not being there, I will admit I was slightly in tears, and all snivley.
I have read that some reviewers find the book melodramatic and trite, but I personally think that was because of the nature of their relationship. It was a dramatic relationship, and had been rather punctuated throughout their entire lives. There was never an extended period of perfect calm, and change could happen at any moment. Drama defined them. I would not call this novel trite either, but have not personally read a lot of time travel novels, so I cannot say I expected any of the events to unfurl as they did. It also may not be relevant to today’s society or make a big political statement or anything, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good novel.
Reading about the entirety of two characters lives in under ten days can leave you feeling different, fuller perhaps. Henry’s youth seems so long ago to me, but I was only experiencing it a few days ago. And what a strange youth it was. I was a little taken aback by Henry’s experiences with himself as a teenager, I found that a little strange but then I asked myself what I would have done in that same situation, and really could come up with an appropriate answer. I also asked my boyfriend, if he were in that scenario, what would he do?….but all I received was a REALLY funny look of concern and judgement, so I moved on… I was also a little shaken about what happened to Clare in High School with that guy from the football team she dated. The idea of an older Henry coming back and helping her like that seemed sensible, but I think they took it a little bit too far. I dunno, I would appreciate other people’s thoughts on this one I think..
On the whole, The Time Traveler’s Wife was a superb read, a welcomed break from reality into a slightly different world. I can certainly understand why it’s so popular in today’s fiction, because it really is more than just another romance novel. It has a life of it’s own, and a real story to tell.
-Miss Hailey Jane