Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Book #72

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This novel is the story of Clare and Henry who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future.

I originally read this when I was sixteen and loved it. I am twenty-three, I have read it again, and I don't really love it at all. I am not sure whether this is due to my heart growing blacker and colder in these seven years, or whether it's due to my ever increasing literary snobbishness. It's probably a bit of both.

The premise is amazing, and I was drawn in for a while. Henry is a time traveller, and although he can't choose when and where he travels to, this is what makes it all the more interesting. The foreshadowing is nothing less than brilliant - knowing what's going to happen before it does is absolutely delicious. I liked that cause and effect got tangled up in knots, and I enjoyed (but perhaps didn't agree with) the idea that everything is already set out; everything in the future has already happened somewhere else.

The novel was filled with unnecessary padding, which I mostly just skimmed through. Niffenegger described the weather, and what people were having for dinner in great length as though these tiny things were incredibly intrinsic to the plot. I also got incredibly annoyed at the cultural name-dropping that occurred throughout the novel. Classical musicians, literary greats, American punk rock revolutionaries, and great painters were all mentioned, passages in the romance languages were peppered through the pages; it all just seemed slightly pretentious for what it really was. It could easily have been a hundred pages shorter.

I also noticed some mildly stereotypical characters, which I don't want to go into in depth, but which annoyed me. I also will only mention in passing the hints to Lolita. Yuck.

Henry and Clare were lovely characters until they met in the present and fell in love. After this there was little to no character development - they were just these two people who were married and in love. I felt distanced from them because of this, and I ended up very indifferent towards them and their predicaments near the end. A lot of the other characters were very, very flat - such as Claire's family. We were given a snippet of them and then nothing followed. I liked Henry’s father, but again we were only given so much of him, and then nothing.

This isn’t too praising a review and it’s a shame because I didn't really want to slate this too much; it was readable, but too many things irked me. I think most people have read this and enjoyed it, and I would recommend it to people who like a love story. I think this is my problem with the plot - it was perfect as a science fiction idea, but in reality it was a love story, which doesn’t excite me as much. Give it a try if you like a chick flick.

72 / 66 books. 109% done!

This will be my last book review of 2010, and although I'll continue my quest in 2011, I'd like to take this space to thank everyone who reads, follows and comments on this blog, those who encourage me and those who make it worth it. I appreciate every single comment and every single reader. Thank you so much, and here's to 2011! Happy reading!


Anonymous said...

I read it, because I do have an interest in time travel and sci-fi bent fiction, but you're right. It is a love story. I think it took me seeing the smarmy movie to realize just how much of a love story it is.

Unknown said...

It's interesting to read this because although it's a few years since I read it, I recently read her follow-up, and a lot of the problems are the opposite of what you describe here. In Her Fearful Symmetry there are too many characters crowding the plot and, unlike in Time-Traveller's Wife where you take the time-travelling for granted and don't think about it, it lacks internal logic that's really distracting. I reviewed it in my second most recent post if you're interested.

I'm dead impressed with how much you've read this year - congratulations! I'm going for 50 but am still on number 48, so I guess I'll just be trying to finish that one tomorrow!

I've really been enjoying your blog, keep it up in 2011!