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11 February 2006

The Time-Traveler's Wife (2004)

By Audrey Niffenegger

Book description: "A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant."

I recently wrote a post about my top five novels of all time. I have to let the initial shock of this book wear off before adjusting my favorites, but The Time Traveler's Wife will certainly make the top three.

I bought this for my mother-in-law at Christmas, after random searching and several remarkable reviews. She will need reading material for their upcoming trip to Australia! However, the plot did not really appeal to me, and I had no intention of reading it. Then Kara, a friend of ours from England, wrote to me about this novel I just HAD to read. She was distressed to see that it wasn't on my reading list. So after a few weeks on the hold list at the library, I had it in my hands.

I gobbled the first 250 pages in two evenings. I actively had to keep myself from reading during the day, lest I neglect all personal hygiene and maternal responsibilities. But after that first half, I stopped reading. Had this been a romance novel, I would have had no qualms about charging ahead and finishing the thing as quickly as possible, certain of a happy ending. But this had no such rosy promises to offer. Niffenegger created real people, despite the science fiction-based plot, and real people live life, not a fairy tale. I wanted to freeze time and keep these marvelous characters safe from whatever awaited them. But freezing time or altering time - and the inability to do so - is discussed at length within these pages, leaving me with the inevitable task: I had to finish.

Last night, at roughly 1:30am, I was a snot-covered mess of tears and sobs (but it was not all sad). I have never read a more emotionally powerful novel. Granted, many books have emotional scenes or gut-wrenching conclusions, but I was crying through more than 100 pages. After turning off the lights, struggling toward sleep, I could not turn my off my mind. Glimpses of their predicament, memories of particular moments, and just trying to grasp the marvel of such a fanatically plotted book kept me awake for another hour. I awoke with questions and musings. It will not leave me alone.

For example, after I learned...

...see this is tough. I want everyone to read this book, but I cannot say a word about the delicacies and quirks for fear of giving away what made the experience so special for me. I cannot tell you when I lost it. I cannot say what made me laugh. Niffenegger did such a wonderful job that her work deserves to remain unspoiled until a reader stumbles into it, like I did.

As a side note, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston bought the rights to its film production, back before their divorce. Gus Van Sant, who directed Good Will Hunting, is slated to direct, but no cast is yet associated with the project. I vote Bryce Dallas Howard as Clare, because her funny, strong, resilient, innocent performance in The Village suggests that she is an actress who possesses a remarkable level of emotional control and depth. She's pretty without being distractingly sexy, and she's got all that Howard family red hair (Clare is a redhead). Thinking of The Village and their fantastic, subtle, generous screen chemistry, I think that Joaquin Phoenix, all darkness and intensity, would make Henry come alive. I would love to se him stretch his acting legs and work with such material - older, younger, happy, wild, content, sad, desperate. But then, Van Sant could go for Matt Damon's all-American versatility and do well, too.

Just go read it and be glad that you did.

Blogger Tess said...

I hope they don't mess up the movie too much!

I loved this book too. I think the author did a phenomenal job.

Blogger Mircalla said...

On your recommendation, I have just finished this book. My critique is more controversial than yours and will be up soon. It may be interested for you to read it ... and I would appreciate your counte-comments.

While reading it, I was thinking that it would work well for a cinematic version. Of course, someone had already thought of it!


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