After the Russian circus that was The Master and Margarita, my poor little head needed a rest and, quite unusually, I decided to give an ‘Oprah book’ a try. Brain hung out, I went on the hunt for some decent, slightly chicky, literary fiction, and courtesy of Grandma Relish The Time Traveler’s Wife was it!
Henry DeTamble and Claire Abshire are an attractive couple, deeply in-love and relatively normal to the casual observer. However, Henry is a librarian with a difference. Suffering from a rare genetic condition, he leaps forwards and backwards in time, often to key moments within his own life and that of his wife, who spends months and sometimes years waiting, worrying and pining for her lover. Henry’s time travel is almost completely haphazard, the only certain element being it worsening in times of stress. Arriving at random points in time without anything to protect him, not even his clothing, Henry’s survival instinct must kick in, using a combination of his quick wits, fists and fast legs to stay out of trouble…most of the time. Visiting Claire at key points throughout her childhood (often in the field at the back of her home) allows the pair to develop a profound relationship before they even meet in ‘real time.’
However much of a ‘break’ I considered this book to be, I was still bowled over by the planning that must surely have gone into it. The premise is an undeniably clever one and the way the Niffenegger has seemingly effortlessly weaved Henry’s toing and froing into the story without confusing the reader is pretty impressive. (Each chapter begins with the date – year included – and the respective ages of both Claire and Henry in each ‘scene’.) Hardly the romantic type, I did care about this couple and their often extremely distressing situation, Henry especially. Our author keeps the pages turning by maintaining a constant feeling of tension as to where in the world he will end up next and where fate will ultimately lead him.
The characters in this novel are hardly the most unusual or exceptional personality-wise, so please don’t get too excited, though this is a beautiful love story. The time-travel element is incredibly well thought out (down to details such as Henry never being able to fly, lest he travel back in time and fall out of the sky) though I was disgruntled to find various wildly misguided articles/blogs online comparing Henry DeTamble to BILLY PILGRIM. Uh. No.
It’s all a bit corny really but it was, at the end of the day, what I needed. Nicely written (apart from one completely isolated and random use of the C word which actually made me snort it was that ridiculous!) with a great plot and big chunk of heart. Brain out, cabbage in decent chicky-type-lit.