Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger

This book was amazing. I was pretty sure it would be great, just based on the premise I'd gathered in a blurb online, and happily as I read I found it certainly measured up to my expectations, at some points even exceeding them. It didn't take long into the book for me to decide that I thought this was even better than The Amnesiac. 'Nuff said.

The book turned out to be a little bit different than I expected. I guess I didn't expect Henry to have a completely separate life from Clare up until he, that he knows of, first meets her at age 28; and, to be honest, I didn't expect Henry's life before Clare to be so full of vice. But it worked well anyway. Especially with the inexplicable chicken-or-egg cycle presented: Clare grows up to be a better woman than she would have, due to 30- and 40-year-old Henry's positive influence in her childhood, as a tutor of both her intellect and character; and because Clare is a better woman, she is able to take degenerate 20-something Henry and help him change into the better man he needs to be in order to exert that positive influence on Clare as a child. Have I blown your mind yet? Just wait until you read the book!

I was afraid that this was going to be one of those books that I couldn't wait to finish, and then once it was over I would hate that it went by so fast. Well, I got the first part right; I was so eager to read this book, and to get all the pieces put together, but once I finished it I was almost relieved. Not glad it was over, really, but satisfied. Of course that may be in part because I still have a lovely stack of books waiting on me, instead of my usual feeling of waaaaaaaah, what am I going to read now?

It is unusual that I feel ambivalent about seeing the movie which is now in theaters. Most times if I've read a book and I know they've made a movie of it, I am driven with curiosity to see what they've done with it. This time, not so much. This is partly because I am just about certain that it can't be anywhere near as good as the book and I don't want to be disappointed; partly because I worry that with all the scrambled chronology it will either be too confusing or insultingly dumbed-down to keep it simple; partly because somehow I don't feel a need to see the characters as anyone but who I picture in my mind--especially because, judging from the movie poster, Clare's hair is mousy brown. It's not as if Niffenegger barely mentioned Clare's hair. We hear multiple times about her beautiful long red curls; this doesn't seem optional to me. If they didn't even pay enough attention to detail to get that part right, I worry for the remainder of the movie. Not only that, but Hud told me he saw a preview for the movie, and it was just a bunch of guy-picks-up-girl-and-swings-her-around, and the book is NOTHING like that. The book is a beautiful love story but not the least bit corny, and guy-picks-up-girl-and-swings-her-around is nothing if not corny.

I have certainly read books with hokey bits in them before, and although those bits tend to disrupt the story with a little bit of literary indigestion, I can usually choke them down and move on, but I don't recall having to do that once in this book. In fact, the only part I remember that rang a little false was at the very beginning, when Henry is first introduced, and it seemed obvious to me that the author was a woman; it was hard to believe that section was truly being narrated by a man. However, I either got used to it quickly, or the rest of the book was not flawed in that manner, because after that first part I no longer noticed it.

I just finished reading the book moments ago and I want to savor it and think over it a little before I jump into my next book. In fact, I ended up re-reading the first 50 or so pages just in order to pick up on all the little hints dropped there, now that I know what all of those hints are alluding to. But even after looking back and reflecting on the story, I can't discern a single plot hole (although at first the time traveling was mind-boggling to me, until I learned and became more accustomed to all the "rules") and all of the questions raised in my mind throughout the book seem to have been answered. I think that is what has given me such a feeling of satisfaction. Nothing was left open or unanswered, and this was made even more fulfilling because the answers were doled out bit by bit and I had to work a little to earn them, rather than being handed a neatly wrapped package at the conclusion.

This book is definitely a keeper! I won't be donating this one to the library.


Amy said...

I just passed this book onto my was a wonderfully inventive story, I think that is what I like the best about it - how creative the author was in making Henry's illness seem so plausible and the changes in time shift so well without getting completely fumbled up. I really admired that.

Highly recommended New Zealand Golden kiwi fruit information said...

It is very easy to follow and everything is well explained (even the time traveling) and in a very plausable manner.

Please give this book a try. I know that if you read it through you will not regret it.