Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Time Traveler's Wife~

I just finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife, and...I didn't like this book. I disliked it quite a bit, truth be told. I picked it for our book club, and I can't wait to get there on Thursday so I can apologize to everyone for this round. I'm very surprised, because I've heard such good things about this book, plus I'm not very picky when it comes to reading. I enjoy all sorts of different genres and can usually find something to like about most everything I read. If you haven't read the book and don't want to be spoiled, stop reading, because there are major spoilers following.

Brief synopsis: The Time Traveler's Wife is about Henry, a "chronically-displaced person" who unwillingly travels through time. He cannot control when and where he travels, but his time shifts are mainly focused around his specific past and his specific future. Henry is in love with Clare, a person he starts visiting when she's 6 (and he's 30 something) and who later becomes his wife. (it's a very chicken or the egg thing, because when he starts visiting Clare he is already married to her in their future) It's meant to be a grand, epic love story, I think, but it really missed the mark for me on that level.

My main problem: The characters are incredibly narcissistic and unlikeable. They are completely selfish and self-centered, and yet people adore them, and love them (both Henry and Clare have people that are obsessed with them for many many years) beyond any reasonable measure, given how flat and shallow and small they are as characters. Their entire world exists only for them, and no one else seems to matter—even their daughter is secondary to their “great love”. Clare goes through 6 miscarriages in a row before she can conceive and carry their daughter to term, and actually says out loud that she doesn't want to adopt because it won't be “real”. After Henry dies, Clare is nothing without him --not that she was all that great with him, anyway. 2 years later, she can't even pull it together to be a good mother to her's still all about Henry, all the time. She ends up waiting for one last hurrah with him when she's 82 (I think he's...43 at the time? it doesn't matter, these characters have sex with each other all along their age spectrums)...the book ends on this vignette, and I think it's supposed to be romantic but I found it sad and pathetic. I would have felt sorry for both their characters if I didn't find them to be so loathsome.

My other big problem: I think it's creepy in the extreme that Henry time travels to spend time with Clare as a little girl, starting when she's six years old, and pretty much ruins her for any other relationship from that point on. He drops little tidbits to her, but never too much...”we'll be together doing xyz in the future, we'll be married, you love me, etc...” He ends up sleeping with her on her 18th birthday, when he's 41--but he's lusted after her younger self for years before that. Well, gee, discussions of determinism, fatalism, free will aside, of course her world will be built around Henry---he structured it that way from the very beginning. That poor kid never had a chance.

I did find the concept intriguing, and I wish it had been executed by a better author. The time travel stuff was interesting, and I did stay up late last night reading, so there is some redeemable stuff in there. Not enough to make me like the book, though.

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