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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife

I have just finished reading "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger. I come away from this book with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, the whole premise of the book is quite illogical. Henry has a genetic disorder which predisposes him to travel in time; unexpectedly and at the most inconvenient moments. If it isn't sufficiently bizarre that time travel is seen as a genetic disorder, Henry's genes seem capable of traveling and interacting with his own genes in another time - Henry as a man meets Henry as a boy and tells him things he will need to know. On this level, the book is rather silly and puerile.

While the time traveling Henry is indispensable to the story, the nub of the book is the relationship Henry has with Clare, his wife. In a silly way, Henry might have been a pink hippopotamus and the book could then have been written around his relationship with Clare. Silly, but hardly any sillier that the actual premise.

What redeems this book is that it is exquisitely well written. Allowing the odd premise, the reader is invited to explore the relationship between Henry and Clare as seen from their different perspectives. The whole thing alternating between a first person Clare and a first person Henry. While this switching of point of view can be difficult, Audrey Niffenegger handles it well and there were only a couple of points in the whole book where I forgot which person was relating the story. There was something in the story that, despite the odd premise, kept me reading; wanting to discover what happens (or happened) to these two people. If the writing had been less masterful, I would have put the book down after a couple of chapters; but no, I read to the very end and was pleased to have done so.

There was also a poetic feel to the writing, but it never became obtrusive. Rather, one stumbled across little gems of sentences like; "But all of our laments could not add a single second to her life, not one additional beat of the heart, nor a breath." It was a delight to stop at these points and reread a sentence or phrase and savour it for how well crafted it was.

I would recommend "The Time Traveler's Wife" as a good, well crafted, read that gets four, perhaps four-and-a-half stars, failing to get five only because of the silly premise.

Posted by fordy at 4:40 PM
Categories: Reading, Reviews