I have been tagged by the lovely folks over at Sweatpants & Coffee for a blog hop featuring books and chocolate. Check out there recommendations here and then scroll below for mine.
“I hate to be where she is not, when she is not. And yet, I am always going, and she cannot follow.”
~ Henry DeTamble
I had heard much hoopla – both positive and negative – about this book, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, when Houghton Mifflin released it in 2003. I tend to listen more to word of mouth rather than critical reviews (which I typically find stuffy and overblown), so I asked my own trusted non-book club of sorts: my mom, two sisters, and niece, avid readers all.
- Mom: Loved it!
- Older sister: Meh.
- Younger sister: Good-ish.
- Niece: Fabulous.
Two to two. As the middle child, it fell to me to be the tiebreaker, once again. Sigh. Of course it did.
Settling into my favorite cozy black and white velvet wing-backed chair (purchased on clearance at Pier 1 years ago for just this purpose), I settled in with my favorite chocolate: Nutella.
First Date. (Henry is 28, Clare is 20.)
It is obvious that I’m hooked from the very first page, because when Clare meets Henry for the first time, she already knows him and he’s never met her before. It takes place in a large library (The Newberry) where he works (historian). History! Books!
Give the title of the book, this makes sense. Of course, it makes no sense, but if you are the type of (geek) reader that I am, you have placed yourself in the hands of the writer. And Niffenegger is deft. The back and forth can be a tennis-match like, I won’t lie. Keeping track can be a bit exhausting. (That’s the biggest complaint I have read about the book.)
It’s gritty, sad, filled with gorgeous language, a moving story, a plot that skips along, some (non-explicit) sex, punk rock music, longing, intense love, humor, and time travel (which is kinda sorta explained – a DNA chrono something — but not really and I’m okay with that).
Here are a few things I’ve gleaned from multiple readings:
- The book is FAR FAR FAR better than the movie which, while I loved the cast, was a sappy, boring love story and didn’t do this master work justice AT ALL. Don’t waste your time. I’m so sad about it I can’t even tell you (no grittiness, no punk, no fighting, really, no Ingrid!). Come on.
- Clare’s name is spelled without the typical ‘I’ (as in Claire). This may be me, but I found her to be an extraordinarily giving person, so I think that the author did that purposefully, leaving the ‘I’ out to subliminally make us know from the beginning that she would give everything she had to Henry (my mom says I’m crazy).
- When Henry travels, he is naked wherever he lands. When he meets Clare as a child, (he’s older, she’s younger, eventually they meet in middle), people complained that it bordered on pedophilia. Given that I have my own experiences with childhood sexual abuse, I personally didn’t have any issues because, a) it fit with the story and, b) he never once made any kind of untoward moves, and was unbelievably uncomfortable in that situation.
He has no control of where he lands, which leads to wildly humorous and many times, inappropriate, albeit often hilarious, situations (naked in the library quite frequently ‘Oh, that’s just HENRY,’).
- These are not perfect characters and some complained that they are stereotypes: Henry drinks, hard, fights and steals (mostly to survive); Clare waits and waits and waits some more, then has a baby. I can’t disagree.
But she also has her own career and becomes a well-known artist, making her own money. See, here’s the thing: it’s a BOOK. It’s a love story. She’s very feminine. He’s very manly. Is that a bad thing? If he was girly and she was manly, chances are this story would have been very different!
But now, I know, how absence can be present, like a damaged nerve, like a dark bird.
This is one of only three or four books I go back to again and again. I recommend it on a cold and rainy night and I promise, if you get past the dates and times and read the story, you too will fall in love. Add some Nutella (or you favorite chocolate), and you’ll enjoy it even more!