Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

A friend of mine recently pointed out that I have been remiss about updating my blog. :( She’s correct... but I between office and home and various odds and ends, I barely get time to read, let alone review. But, that is not an excuse, so here I am with another review of a book I recently read, The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. This book, first published in 2003, has been on the must-read shelf of many readers and is lauded as one of the better fictions of the decade. So, backed by great reviews, I decided to read it.

Let me state right away that I expected the book to be one of those awesome reads which keep you up at night (not had one of those in quite some time!). Boy was I disappointed! The book just went on and on and on... I read it for 3 ½ days... which for me is very long to read 546 pages... It was like a four hour movie which you have to watch when you just want to know how its gonna end. I kept looking at the counter on my Sony Reader waiting for it to end.  This is not to say that the book is absolutely boring, but, it was just longer and slower than I expected.

The story is about Henry DeTamble, who due to some genetic defect becomes a time-traveller. Now this is not time travel in his thoughts... but an actual wake up in a new place at a different decade type time traveller. He meets this girl Clare on one of his jaunts, she is six and he is 36 and they get married when she is 20 and he is 28 (this is actually a part of the book’s description... but it’s just so catchy!). Oh ya, by the way, he can’t take anything with him on his travels, not even clothes.

Well, while the first few chapters give you a feeling of reading this awesome new idea, 546 pages of the same thing get boring. The book is written in from Henry and Clare’s perspectives, describing the situations from their point of view. Surprisingly, their tone is exactly the same... you keep checking the heading to see who is describing the event! There is no difference in emotions and feeling between the two characters. Each story or situation begins with the date and the age of the characters during that time. This was very annoying to me as a reader as I can never remember things like what age is the character supposed to be right now! Plus, this story maps Henry and Clare’s entire life, which made it even more confusing. I spent the first few chapters going back and forth and trying to understand how Henry could be 8 and 28 at the same time!

Anyways, once I figured out the time travel part, the story became a drag. Major annoying points were, the overly detailed references to paper making, opera, punk rock, food and art followed by references to sex, sex and more sex... Now don’t get me wrong, anyone reading my blog knows I enjoy a well written steamy bedroom scene, but this was just not cool, or should I say hot! Towards the end of it, I kept imagining a middle aged man having sex with a woman with a very sagging body (she has had 6 miscarriages, what else will her body be???). This was extremely off putting! Also, the character, despite his tendency to disappear for days, missing important work events and running around naked between the stacks manages to keep his job at the Newberry Library throughout his life! How I wish I had bosses like that. Plus, if he has cheated and won the lottery already, why does he need to work as a librarian and keep getting caught in embarrassing situations?

Also, the author manages to squeeze in the regular clichés, Clare is the poor little rich girl who has a show piece of a house but a depressed mother and a rebellious sister, Henry has an alcoholic dad and a mom who died in a car crash in front of his eyes, Clare had the German Nanny and the Black cook who calls her Miz Abshire, Henry has a Korean landlady who plays Bingo and speaks broken English. There, they are equal... And, as a couple they have a Polish friend, who calls everyone comrade, chain smokes (even during sex) and talks about anarchy and rebellion and is in love with Clare.... Yawn....

To sum up my long review for this long book, the book is strictly O.K. I would rate it 2.5/5 mainly because of the good idea. The author could have made the idea into much much more. There is a film made on the same book, I’ll see if I can get my hands on a DVD and compare it to the book. Hope it is not as slow as the book.

This was read as part of my 100+ Books in a Year Challenge and E-Book Reading Challenge 

Rating: 2.5/5

Book Details:

Author: Audrey Niffenegger

Publisher: Vermilion (2004)

Book Summary: This extraordinary, magical 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. His disappearances are spontaneous and his experiences are alternately harrowing and amusing. The Time Traveler's Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare's passionate love for each other with grace and humour. Their struggle to lead normal lives in the face of a force they can neither prevent nor control is intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

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