Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week 44: The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

I had wanted to read this book for a while, even though I had heard mixed reviews about it, with some calling it romantic and others, maudlin.  The truth is that it’s both.  But, it works. A book like this cannot succeed, in my opinion, without being a tiny bit sentimental – it’s a love story. But it is far more sad than it is romantic. It’s a deeply melancholy tale that is more about loss than love. This is the story of Henry and Clare, whose relationship spans nearly their entire lives due to Henry’s ability to time travel. He is unable to control it, and it is a burden in many ways for him. There is no rhyme or reason as to where or when he will end up. He simply disappears. This puts Clare in the position of being the one (as she puts it) “left behind”. She has to simply resume her life alone when Henry disappears, and try not to worry about him while he’s off in another time. This may sound like science fiction, and it is, but the essence of their relationship is something that many couples can relate to. Any couple that has to be apart for reasons such as long distance, or a job, or the military, will find that this book strikes a chord. On top of the very human element of Henry and Clare’s relationship, the time traveling layer is extremely interesting. At several points while reading this book, I marveled over the author’s ability to spin this tale. It’s complex in that it takes place in so many different times, yet it reads realistically because it is consistent in its portrayal of its characters, despite their multiple different ages in the story. Certain scenes foreshadow points in the book, but the reader is not aware of this until finishing it and reflecting on the story as a whole. It’s a lot to think about. I enjoyed this a great deal and find myself thinking about it often since I closed its pages.

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