Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

My husband has been encouraging me to read this book for about a year, he read it and thought it was great. After much delay, I have finally caved under the pressure. (Actually, I just finally felt in the mood for it.) I chose to read it via audio book in order to allow for packing, driving, and cleaning while I read. I'm really looking forward to a few days of lounging with a good book at some point in the near future.

The Time Traveler's Wife is the story of Henry, a reluctant time traveler, and Claire, his eventual wife and the love of his life. It is the story of their relationship and their love, but it's not a romance novel. It's a dramatic story, with a bit of science fiction thrown in through the element of time travel. Henry begins time traveling at the age of five, he has no control over when or where he goes, he can not prevent himself from going. When he arrives, it is without any clothes, and he acquires a rather unique skill set to survive these unexpected jaunts in time and space.

The audio recording was the BBC edition, read in two points of view, Henry's and Claire's. Both readers were excellent, and really helped bring the characters to life. William Hope gives life to Henry, while Laurel Lefkow voices Claire.

Time traveling is not always a pleasant experience for Henry, he is often returned to pivotal moments in his own life and these are not always pleasant. The time traveling complicates his life as he will suddenly vanish and reappear, the passage of time is not always equal on both sides of the travel either. He may be in the past for a day and gone from the present for 30 minutes, or in the past for 30 minutes and gone from the present for a couple of days. The erratic nature of the time travel causes worry and strain in Henry and Claire's relationship, as well as their desire for a normal life.  Their feelings for each other are strong, but often convoluted, as Henry's first meeting with Claire is not Claire's first meeting with Henry.

Claire has known Henry since she was a child, but Henry doesn't meet Claire until they are both in their 20s. Henry is disturbed by how well Claire seems to know him, while she is a stranger to him. Henry tries to keep his time traveling a secret, as most people would simply think him insane.

Audrey Niffenegger's writing is wonderful. Henry and Claire have distinctive voices and perspectives. I think the passage that truly one me over was her writing as 6 year old Claire. She captured the speech patterns of a young child perfectly, including the stops and starts and the exuberance that almost renders them incomprehensible to adults. The book is very emotional, I was in tears in several places, sometimes from sadness, sometimes from joy.

If you've seen the movie and didn't like it, ignore that and read the book. The movie, so I've been told, falls extremely short of the emotion and depth of the book.