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…
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 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.