Sunday, August 12, 2007

Book Review: The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

"This the story of Henry and Clare, who have known each other since Clare was 6 and Henry was 36, and were married when Clare was 20 and Henry 28"... and so Niffenegger begins to lay out The Time Traveler's Wife. They meet in 1991 when Clare is 20 and Henry is 28; Henry will get to know Clare in his future, Clare knows Henry through her past.

At the heart of this beautifully written book is a simple love story; of destiny and fulfillment, of hope and of the sadness of separation. Henry suffers from a chrono-displacement disorder which causes/enables/allows involuntary time travel. He and Clare provide the narration in turn, describing their stories and the transition from Clare's childhood to Clare's present. Her past is punctuated with visits by Henry from Clare's future; each time he meets her in her past he has travelled from her future enabling him to know Clare in a way that few people can know their partner. He knows that the six year old Clare who he meets in the meadow behind her parents house will grow up to be his wife. They get to know each other and Henry leaves Clare a list of dates. These end on her 18th birthday and she knows that she will have to spend 2 years without him before they will meet properly in the present. She slowly becomes aware that the time she spends with Henry in his past are the times that she will be waiting for Henry to return to her future. Although this causes heartbreak to her both in the past and future when Henry is not there with her, it also helps, perhaps, their relationship to run smoother. One particular incident occurs when Clare is about 30 and she and Henry have been suffering from some discordance in their present. Henry suddenly disappears only to reappear with such an expression that Clare knows exactly which point in her past he has just visited (the day that she lost her virginity to Henry) and their romance is instantly rekindled.

Time travelling is not something that Henry is able to control. He knows that there are certain triggers which often indicate that it is about to happen, stress, dizziness etc but when he leaves he and only he move. His clothes are left behind, as are his fillings, glasses and anything he may have been holding. He arrives in the past - or occasionally his future - naked. He develops an ability to find clothes, to steal, to run. When he visits Claire in her past he knows of her future: their lives are pre-destined, Henry knows how her life will play out. He mostly doesn't tell her but there must be a certain comfort knowing that someone else knows how things will turn out. For Henry though, knowing how things will turn out is not always a blessing. On one of his rare trips to the future he meets his future daughter who tells him that he dies aged 43, when she is 5. On another trip to the future he meets Clare as an old woman and he is able to leave her a letter to be opened after his death telling her that she must carry on with her life, for they are destined to meet once more.


Rachel said...

I am so glad you like this, I absolutely adore this book

Karlyn said...

Stumbled upon your blog! LOVE this book.