Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife

Now this is a book that would rank on my friend Lisa's "how I know you're gay" list. My wife was reading it and got engrossed in some other book. I was between books and it was by the bed, so I started reading it, although the title and the cover art made it a book I would never read in public!

But I must say it was good. The story is about a man named Henry, who has a genetic disorder that makes him prone to being chronologically displaced, i.e. he time travels. It's also about his wife (thus the title), Clare. If you are science-phobic, fear not, for the book makes no attempt to explain the science behind theoretical time travel. I think we would need Michael Crichton for that job. But this truly does not distract from the story, because how the time travel occurs is utterly inconsequential. What's important is that it does. Rather than time travel being an event arising in the story, it is what allows the story to unfold. And the story is entirely about the relationship between these two people, as it transcends linear time.

Despite it being a somewhat idyllic love story, I found the story riveting because of my recent piqued interest in determinism. As I noted in my 27 Aug 2007 entry about the movie Premonition, it seems the consensus that any attempt to change fate, fulfills it. It holds true in this book, and in the end, it makes perfect sense to me, and sits quite well.

Most of the story is told from two points-of-view, Henry's and Clare's. A superb approach for a couple reason. First, it allowed a much more intensive interpretation of the various scenarios. Something that a single first person perspective, or a third person narrative could not have done. The third person narrative may add an omniscient view, but it essentially becomes a single point-of-view. This multiple person narrative gives us two, and it's much richer. Second, it allowed me to keep on reading. I'm not sure I could have continued through the story had it been strictly Clare's narrative. I could relate and better understand Henry's narrative, so it kept the story progressing for me, even when Clare's narrative became too ethereal.

Kudos to Niffenegger on her debut novel. Change the cover art and I think this book might find a male audience, beyond the Oprah crowd.

The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger
2003, Knopf Canada

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