You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife is a fantasy novel by Audrey Niffenegger in which the main character has a genetic condition that forces him to randomly pop back and forth in time. Only his body travels, leaving Henry De Tamble at the mercy of the elements and other people. But the time traveling is just a device to provide conflict in the relationship between Heny and his wife Clare, and suggest a metaphor for the distance between them.

Henry first meets Clare when he is 28 and she is 20, yet she has known him her whole life. Older versions of Henry have traveled to visit her since she was a little girl, so she is accustomed to his condition. But she must get used to him leaving her a spontaneous times instead of arriving at predestined times. The novel is filled with amusing and suspenseful scenes when Henry travels at inoppurtune times. The story is great as fantasy or science fiction, throwing the main characters into strange and exciting situations.

But the story also works on another level. Henry's disappearances make him an imperfect boyfriend or husband. His previous relationship was a spectacular failure due to Henry's behavior, not only his time traveling but his general unreliability. With Henry jumping back in time, we see his literal and metaphorical failings juxtaposed. The time travel is another dimension of Henry's problems with women.

The title says the story is not about Henry but about Clare. Growing up, Henry is the ideal boyfriend to Clare. She can imagine a bright future with him. When she finally meets him in the present everything is fine at first, but eventually she becomes dismayed at the reality of his condition. She worries every time he disappears. At the same time, she knows that he will return, for he has visited her from the future. That is, until later in the story, when the visits get fewer and the disappearances become more harrowing. Clare knows that each time Henry leaves it could be for the last time. The jumps become more dangerous, like when Henry appears inside a metal cage inside the library where he works. The cage haunts Henry because he know he will not be able to get out of it.

The book works on all its levels. It is a touching romance, a science fiction thriller, and literary blend of the two. The story moves from fresh novelty, to troubled middle, to a troubled end. It becomes more more haunting as the end nears, Henry's jumps become more dire, and his health degrades. But we have glimpses of the Clare's future to see some hope. A-

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