19. The Time Traveler’s Wife popped by to gloat.

I wanted to hate this book.

Sure, it was a quirky idea, but there was definitely angst on the horizon, and I wasn’t really keen on stomaching a lovey-dovey couple for 500 pages or so. Then the lovely Charlie ambled over, looked me up and down (the List, that is, not me), and said – in no uncertain terms – that The Time Traveler’s Wife was “brilliant”.

I wasn’t going to argue, so on my next library trip I picked up my very own romance novel (gasp!). In fact, the book had a big, red love heart on the spine, ostentatiously put there by librarians to denote a romance, and which I had to spend the next few days surreptitiously covering with my hand.

Was I right in my initial aversion to Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel? Let’s see: it was a quirky, there was plenty of angst, but – shock horror – I actually enjoyed the love story! Maybe not as much as the sci-fi aspect of the book, but what’s next? Picking up Mills and Boon novels for the intellectual debate? Kill me now…

Audrey Niffenegger

Basically, there’s this guy, Henry, and he has a rare genetic mutation causing him to unwillingly travel though time. Henry usually pops by places that hold emotional weight for him, and, accordingly, he spends a fair amount of time in the past with a girl as she grows up; his wife, Clare.

It would have been awesome if we got to go along with Henry on his other adventures through time, but Audrey stays pretty tightly focused on the story. I decided to put this to rights, and made my own list of things to do should I suddenly become a time traveller:

  • Party with Marie Antoinette.
  • Advise past-me to look at the fine print of my uni loan in order to avoid a near cardiac arrest six months after graduation.
  • Hang out on the Titanic. Obviously disappear well before the ship sinks.
  • “Win” the lotto. Enough said.
  • Find out if the Arthurian legend is real.
  • Tell Vincent Van Gogh that, despite my personal preferences, he will be a famous artist in the future (I may have been a little influenced by that Doctor Who episode).
  • Turn into a flower child.
  • Leave myself detailed warnings about the as-yet-hidden douchebags in my life.
  • Did aliens really make Egyptian pyramids?

The Time Traveler's Wife movie (2009). Haven't seen, probably never going to...

Anyway.

The book was written in dual narrative – sometimes from Clare’s point of view, sometimes Henry’s. Interestingly, I’ve read criticism about the prose being really simplistic, and, though I’m unsure if it was representative of Audrey’s ability, or a deliberate stylistic choice on her part, I rather liked it. It made the characters far more real, and, just, suited the book.

[DON’T READ BELOW IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON READING THIS NOVEL]

My single gripe was the last quarter of the novel. Here’s something you should know: I’m a sucker for happy endings, mostly because I feel that the world is crappy enough without depressing myself further by reading a sad book. Call it my own, personal, propaganda.

And though I hate to admit it, I would have been perfectly happy reading about Clare and Henry’s relatively comfortable life together and their epic love for the entirety of the novel. Like eating a whole block of chocolate, the book was an indulgent, furtive, and guilty pleasure. Then bam! Unexpected-ish stomach ache in the form of a drawn out unhappy ending.

[END OF SPOILERS]

I’m going to liken The Time Traveler’s Wife to a raindrop. Beautiful. Clean. Glistening. A whole world within it, so similar to yours and mine. But the light refractions make the world look other; off. And you want to keep that world, keep it falling forever, but eventually you know it’s going to land. And when it does – when it does – that drop will be nothing more than a part of the road your feet are standing on. Dirty. Indifferent. So you hold that moment off. You slow the drop right down, and what would have taken milliseconds is taking an eternity. And slowly, so slowly, that drop is touching more and more of the ground. A single moment stretched into a series of cracks; a slow-motion implosion. So unexpected, that moment. So violent.

… and that was what reading The Time Traveler’s Wife felt like. Um.

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17 responses to “19. The Time Traveler’s Wife popped by to gloat.

  1. So much I want to say- but it would all fall under the Spoiler Alert. Anyway- so pleased that you didn’t hate it. Just don’t see the movie or you’ll be crushed. I didn’t have any expectations before seeing it. But still. There’s always this slight glimmer of hope before going into a movie that’s based off of a book. I think if they’d make a movie- and use the book as the official script.. than just maybe would it be good enough. Anyway– thanks for the mention! woo. I’m famous.

    • Thanks so much for getting me off my butt so that I read this book! Email me on thefriande@gmail.com if you want to talk to about the spoilers, because….gah. Well, just because. Definitely staying away from the movie. Least of all, because I did not imagine Henry as Eric Bana.
      PS I didn’t even realise until I was re-reading your comment when I was writing this post, but you also recommended Catcher in the Rye AND THAT”S WHAT I”M READING NOW. I’m a stalker, aren’t I?

  2. I adore how you sum these books up! -gasp- you finally got to read a romantic story and it seems that you made it out okay. Not all books are meant to end well, c’est la vie! Ha! That uni-loan has you furious still! I hear you! I adored reading you ‘if you could…’ list. Please, let Van Gogh go on with his madness…if he failed to cut off his ear I think he would have been rather boring.

    Missed reading you!

    • This was my first ever contemporary romance … and I liked it! It was pretty fun making that list, I could have gone on forever it seemed. Judging by Doctor Who, telling Van Gogh wouldn’t alleviate his manic depression, but it did make him happy for a short period of time.
      …and I missed hearing from you!

      • Sorry for coming around late. Had server issues, economics final test, etc. I think they have about all remedied themselves…for now.

        Not a problem, I love your work, I will never stray too far or for too long!

        Cheers!

  3. bajajaj. You are so stalking me. Stop! jaja. No no– actually I wanted to recommend a few more on your list but felt like a list stalker!

    hmm, there was some Actor I imagined as Henry- and now I completely forget who it was. Whoever it was, they weren’t that great. But I just couldn’t help but keep imagining them. Anyway. Keep up the good reading (yes, that was lame).

    • I was kind of imagining an Anglo-Saxon version of Santiago Cabrera (Lancelot in BBC’s Merlin). Anyway, feel free to recommend! I love recommendations because, most of the time, I pop by the library and choose something at random from my list. And things like Possession by A.S. Byatt happen.

      • bajaj… I can totally see that (Santi Cabrera).
        hmm- have you ever read The Outsiders? Childrens (youth age) book, but pretty good.

        Okay I loved it! I guess I’ve just had so many ‘literary’ people not like it- that it’s getting to my head. Gatsby is good… and the movie too, surprisingly. I’m currently trying to get into Franny and Zoey… Salinger’s less popular novel.

        • I read Rumble Fish, which was by the same author as The Outsiders, and in the same vein I think? Reading it I had a crush on the “bad boy” brother lol.

          I remember being angry that the other class got to read Gatsby at school, while we were stuck with Great Expectations. Hopefully I can rectify this soon!

          • hahah

            you know what? I was reading Gatsby at school in the hallway and my english teacher came up to me and asked me if it was a good book. He then proceeded to make that the assessment for the semester… nobody liked it and everyone hated me. Even the smart kids. *sigh*

  4. lol! Your review cracked me up – the mills and boon bit is something I would say. I hate romances… but I must admit to have tried a couple of M&B titles in my younger years.

    From your review I think I’ve gathered that this isn’t your usual lovey-dovey romance trip. It’s a bit different, which might make it enjoyable for me. Also your mention of a dual narrative has piqued my interest. And anyway… I’m a sucker for things like two lovers getting lost in time and narrowly missing each other (I’m reminded of the Keanu Reeves film with the letters… forgot what it was called).

    Thanks for that honest review. Though that the pic of Niffeneger always seems to scare me out of my wits. She’s far too pale.

    • I think you should give it a go, it was a pretty awesome book. But they didn’t narrowly miss each other, they ALWAYS knew each other, so it was an interesting dissection of the idea of ‘soulmates’.
      And that pic of Audrey was the nicest I could find. Eek.

  5. Awesome review! I had similar feelings when I started reading the book. I griped, I complained when I thought that the author was leaving gaping, unexplainable holes in how the whole time travel thing worked. But then at the same time – I couldn’t stop reading it. My husband started to say, “Boy, you’re really into that book, for someone who claims to hate it so much.” So it kind of won me over in the end too.

    • Thanks for the comment! I literally inhaled this book, although I didn’t want to admit that the love story was so compelling. I don’t think I totally understood Audrey’s version of time-travel, although she said herself that she wasn’t focusing too much on the “sci-fi” aspect of the book.

  6. Yes! I so agree with you about this book, including the (spoiler) ending! I didn’t think I’d like it either, and the prose, while simplistic, put the story/characters at the front, rather than the writing. I really, really liked it.

    • I know, right?! I wish that the movie wasn’t as bad as it was, because I miss reading this book. And I don’t know if I could bring myself to re-read it just yet. Have you read her other book? I was considering it, but heard it wasn’t quite as good.

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