Friday, July 07, 2006

Book Review: "The Time Traveler's Wife"

Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife was recently recommended to me, so the next time a copy came through the shop I picked it up. Let me just say this at the outset: simply marvelous. This isn't something I'd normally have read, but I am very glad that I did - I couldn't put it down, and stayed up much too late reading the last few chapters.

At heart this is a story about love, but it is hardly your traditional guy-gets-girl romance novel. How could it be, when the guy (Henry, a rare books librarian at the Newberry) is an involuntary time-traveler who first "meets" the girl (Clare) when she's six and he's in his late thirties, having been zipped back from his "present"? It's a bizarre premise, and one which had to be terrifically difficult to manage in the writing process. But Niffenegger pulls it off - magnificently - and while all the zipping around can be slightly mind-boggling for the reader, one need only think about how infinitely more frustrating it must be for the characters!

This is at times not an easy book to read; once I started to identify with the characters it wasn't difficult to feel their frustrations, to understand Clare's fears that Henry, once disappeared, might never find his way back to reality (such that it was); that Henry never knew where or when he'd suddenly appear, without clothes, and have to make his way about until he did return to his present. Sometimes the foreshadowed plot twists are gut-wrenching, and I just had to keep reading until I got to that moment I knew was coming, hoping all the while that somehow that collision could be avoided.

The Time Traveler's Wife got a great deal of of hype when it came out - after reading it, I can only conclude that most of it was indeed well-deserved. This is the kind of book that will take you from tears to laughter and back again before you turn the page, and the kind in which you dread making that last page-turn because you know the trip has ended.