Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

Title The Time Traveler's Wife
Author Audrey Niffenegger
Genre Literary Fiction
Author A-

Summary Henry, a "Chronologically-Displaced Person" (aka, Time Traveler), meets his wife, Clare, when she's six (and he's not six) and then he continues to travel around in his time and her time, living life.

First Line "Clare: It's hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. It's hard to be the one who stays."

Review I really liked this over-wrought love story (and if anybody tries to tell you it's not just a romance story dressed up as something else, tell them they're a liar). Even though there isn't much more going on than the romance story, it's still interesting because the time travelling aspect is kind of interesting. Niffenegger tries to do more than just write a 518-page opus to her dream guy, she asks some questions about fate and free will (and doesn't necessarily answer them).

My biggest problem with this story came during the climax when there were some inconsistencies in the story and how the crucial "event" in Henry's life occurred. Something occurs during "The Episode of the Monroe Street Parking Garage" that permanently alters Henry, but a climactic moment had already been seen (via time travel) some 370 pages earlier (22 years earlier in Clare's life) differently than when it occurred in real time. Sure, the chronology of this book is, understandably, convoluted, but I think something that was so critical to the climax of the book, an essential detail about how the male protagonist "functions" in that scene, is pretty important.

That, a fact/continuity issue, was the only thing I could come up with. Other than that I was thoroughly pleased with the book. I looked around at to see what problems other people had, and found that only 8% (of 88,500 readers) rated the book as 1 or 2 stars. The bulk of their complaints was that the book was "boring" and didn't live up to the hype. The author can't necessarily be blamed for the hype--that wasn't her doing--and part of the "boringness" of the book is related to the afore-mentioned hype. As I said in the opening paragraph of this review, if you go in knowing that this is merely a love story/opus to Niffenegger's dream guy (who is surprisingly close to my dream guy), then you're unlikely to be disappointed. [Note: Dream guy is a slim-built, book-loving, poetry-spouting, multilingual librarian with a love of old-school punk.]

Also, her grade took another hit because in Niffenegger's quest to prove how awesome her dream guy is, she gets wordy with descriptions (and you know how I hate that). The laundry lists of groceries, bands, and locations in Chicago (in addition to her long-winded descriptions of the paper-making process--her first true love) get a little grating.

So, all that being said, I recommend this book to anybody who likes a "high brow" love story with a metaphysical twist, bearing in mind that they need to be able to overlook a major plot inconsistency that doesn't necessarily affect the plot, but shows sloppiness none the less.

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