I remember first picking up this book from my brother’s bookshelf when I was thirteen and flipping hurriedly through the first few chapters only to deem it as ‘tedious’ and the ‘stuff of old men’. Much older, I picked up Audrey Niffenegger’s the Time Traveler’s Wife for the second time and found myself thoroughly consumed by the fourth chapter, Lessons in Survival. I’m not quite certain if my former lack of attention was due the artlessness of age or something else altogether because even though this time there were still some tediously comatose parts, the Time Traveler’s Wife was all in all a stirringly sumptous read.
Henry, a striking young librarian in Chicago is one of the first people diagnosed with a rare disorder called Chrono-Displacement Disorder (his genetic clock resets and he finds himself displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity in his life, past and future). Clare, an attractive young art student, and completely normal, is married to him. Theirs is a love story that (literally) transcends time beginning at the tender age of six and thirty six.
No, this isn’t a Lolita spin off but one of the effects that a conundrum such as time traveling can cause to an otherwise happy married life. Niffenegger utilizes the possibilities of her fantasy setting with immense talent, keeping it tuned not just to the technicalities of her magical world, but also to the emotions of the couple. This is what saves the novel from becoming just a girly, childish yarn. When Clare and Henry finally get married, with all their family and friends in attendance, he suddenly disapppears just before the ceremony. But luckily, an older Henry falls through the years to take his place, saving the day. So, because Henry can visit the future, he can not only buy a winning lottery ticket if need be, he can also be sure they will be married and have a child. It is this certainty about the future that gives both of them a invincible sense that their lives are already mapped out, and the time of their deaths destined from before.
This is one of those books you’d want to start and finish in just one day, waiting to see if time’s twisted ways are straightened out or not. Exceedingly original and creative, this debut novel asks questions about life, love, and the effects of time on relationships. Above all it teaches us the painful truth that if a love is true, understanding and complete, absolutely forgiving and absolutely sacrificial it will be love that stands the test of time. Niffenegger writes a fantastic tale of fate and true love around such a simple yet passionate desire for something as normal as family, friends and happiness. All of this is threatened by something neither can control or change, making their story all the more unforgettable. The Time Traveler’s Wife sets up a very gentle kind of magic, one that keeps you in a comfortably deep lull from start to finish.
Overall Rating: 8/10
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