I have been tagged by the lovely folks over at Sweatpants & Coffee for a blog hop featuring books and chocolate. Check out their 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.)
So, don’t. Don’t keep track. Let it go and enjoy the damn story!
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!
MM Jaye saysJuly 26, 2014 at 10:14 am
Oh, no Nutella needed to love this one! One of my favorite reads too! I also didn’t find their first meet disturbing and am surprised to learn that people felt that way… Great pick! Okay, some Nutella, just a (tea) spoonful… 🙂
Greetings from Greece!
Rachel Thompson saysJuly 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm
Greeting, beautiful! Thanks so much for reading. I do still love this book. I didn’t find any of their man/child meetings disturbing but I did read some survivors who had a difficult time with that which I respect. We each have our own boundaries, and I didn’t want to leave that out in case somebody would find it upsetting.
and of course, Nutella! lol. hugs, girl.
Janie Junebug saysJuly 26, 2014 at 10:17 am
That book is beautiful. The movie not so good.
Rachel Thompson saysJuly 27, 2014 at 7:53 pm
Thanks Janie — totally agree. I know they have to leave a lot out of a movie script — but this was ridiculous.
Greg Mischio saysJuly 28, 2014 at 6:22 am
I loved the book Rachel. So well crafted, and the time travel element didn’t feel sci fi at all. Highly recommended – with or without the Nutella!
Will Van Stone Jr saysJuly 28, 2014 at 7:21 am
Damn good review from a self-professed non-reviewer 🙂
Kim Jorgensen Gane saysAugust 4, 2014 at 9:28 pm
Read it years ago. LOVED it. You made me want to read it again. With some extra dark chocolate, please. (O;
Julie Farley saysAugust 5, 2014 at 4:33 pm
Might have to take it to the beach to re-read. One of my all time favs! Thanks for the reminder!