Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Unfortunately, I did not feel like this book lived up to my expectations. In fact, at some points, I think a much stronger word than "disappointed" would be appropriate, but I'll stick with that for now.

First of all, I think Niffenegger's idea was extremely creative--not one I would ever have thought of. And the plot, as it twists and turns through time, I thought, was really quite amazing. I have to give her major points on that one. It also got me thinking about how cool it would be to go back in time and have a little chat with my husband as a six year old. I would love that. =)

However, I got very tired, very quickly, of the author's reliance on eroticism as a source of describing Clare and Henry's love for each other. This bothers me because I feel like +/-
it's a very weak thing to rely on, in entirety, to describe love in it's deepest form. Honestly, I didn't see what it added to the plot or the character development. And, closely linked with it, I found a few of her comparisons/jokes (i.e., "not quite Auschwitz-skinny") to be in poor taste.

The other thing I found disappointing about the novel was the character development. I didn't feel like the characters had separate, distinct voices. Sometimes, if I wasn't paying close enough attention, I would forget who was speaking, and have to flip back and look, because Clare and Henry were interchangable. I felt the other characters were also mostly this way (meaning Clare and Henry's friends and relatives). I know it's good for an author to write what he or she knows; apparently our author was very versed in punk rock parties! But, I felt she could have branched out with her characters a little, and that she should have done so. Although there are a few exceptions, for the most part, I felt that all the characters were more or less the same person, just with a different name. It made the story fall somewhat flat, I felt.

But, it wasn't all bad. I felt that the end of the book was very moving. I felt like she illustrated that horrific prospect of seemingly endless separation with such emotion and insight, it would be very difficult not to be moved by it. The theme of "waiting" was certainly explored in the most creative way I have ever seen. I felt like I got inside that kind of longing, frustration, and despair. That feeling of expectation, and then knowing that it can't last forever. I think everyone wishes, at some point in life, that they could bottle a happy moment and keep reliving it without ever letting that moment slip away.

Although chrono-displacement disorder (or whatever it was called) is a ficitional disease, there are lots of diseases that people have to cope with that cause similar emotional responses and frustrations. I can't imagine what that would be like. Niffenegger showed me exactly what that would feel like, and it was devastating. It was heart-wrenching for me to see that from the inside. And it got me thinking about what I would do and how I would react, how I would cope.

For these reasons, I'm glad I read the book, but I didn't feel like it made my "must read" list and I wouldn't recommend it.

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