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Mad Dog & Glory

The Time Traveler's Wife - The day to day life of the DeTambles

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Having finally finished The Time Traveler's Wife last night (yes, I know, I'm a bit behind), I was left feeling a little dissatisfied. I loved it for around 200 pages, but then I thought it tailed off badly and left a lot of unanswered questions. Not only the time travel - I had no problems with suspending disbelief, although the most unbelievable part was that they were allowed to lead a 'normal' life, rather than Henry being captured and studied by the US government.

It's the so-called 'normal' life that concerns me. It seems incredible that I could read a 500+ page novel centring almost exclusively on two characters, and at the end not really have much of an idea of each other's personalities or how they went about their daily lives. At one point, Henry buys a lottery ticket knowing the result and wins several million dollars, so Clare can have a studio. No other mention is made of this. So are they millionaires? They seem to live in normal-sized house, in a normal street. So what do they do with themselves when Henry isn't time travelling? They're not watching TV, as Henry can't. They can't spend all of their time in bed.

The other huge problem with the novel is lack of conflict, which is essential to all drama. Henry and Clare have this 'perfect' relationship, and are only unhappy with each other over the miscarriages. There were all sorts of potential themes and conflicts that Niffenegger shied away from. Why does Clare never question the fact that this man came into her life at the age of 5 and, as they say, ruined her for other men?

 

He controlled her before she met him in the present, so that she wasn't interested in dating other men. Then he controlled her after his death, by telling her in a letter that they would meet again when she's an old woman, leaving her to spend 45 of her life waiting for him to come back.

Niffenegger seems so intent on making this the perfect love story that she misses a lot of tricks.

My guess is that Audrey Niffenegger will be a one-hit wonder. She came up with a brilliant idea, and also came up with a good structure (although some disagree), and played out every permutation of time travelling possible. But in the end a great idea can get you only so far, and I don't feel she has the skills as a novelist to get as much out of the story as was potentially there.

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I think your post is really interesting, MDG (if I may be so bold!) and I find myself nodding madly in agreement. I also felt dissatisfied at the end of the book. Your point about conflict made me realise that for me the moments where I felt myself really engage with the characters were the few occasions where this took place: Clare and her mother (the description of the subtlety of family dysfunction was good, I thought); the time when Henry is sick and turns on Alba; the bit where.....um...can't think of any more.

 

For me the most meaningful aspect was not the central love story but the underlying, or rather parallel, story of loss. But that meant I got frustrated a lot of the time - for example, I wanted to know more about Henry and his mother, as in depth and meaning rather than the brutal facts of her death and the somewhat sugar-coated description of his visits to his childhood relationship with her. The miscarriage scenarios left me unmoved, sadly. Too much gore and not enough emotion.

 

I could easily have done without all the - to me - unnecessary and uninteresting description of what clothes they were wearing, what the weather was like, their furniture, the cafes etc etc. And as for the page long detailed description of how Clare made the angel sculpture, good grief, what was the point in that? I don't get it. And what was the point in all the scientific detail when Kendrick (? hopeless at remembering names) was trying to find a cure? Were we supposed to really believe it is possible to time travel?? For me there was too much explanatory detail about the intricacies and practical implications of time travel. For goodness sake, it's fiction; the story is either good enough for the reader to suspend belief or not, we shouldn't need to be persuaded to that extent. Unless it's supposed to be science fiction..??

 

Having said (rambled) all that, it is a book that has stayed with me for all of a week and I do find myself thinking and wondering about it still. It would be very interesting to hear more from those that found something meaningful in it because I think I may have missed the point a lot of the time. I mean, it's an intriguing idea (time travel) and the author's aim is obviously to use this as a way of exploring.....what exactly? I'm still not quite sure.

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I keep meaning to post on this book, but just haven't really got round to it yet, despite having read it nearly a month ago now. At the time of reading I got very involved in the book and just couldn't put it down, but now most of the story other than the direction of the plot seems to have left me - rather odd considering I've not read much else since then.

 

 

The two parts that stuck with me the most were the wedding, and the end of the book "Always again". The wedding because it seemed to me inevitable that Henry would time-travel, and although I was worried for the characters (sounds silly but it's true) I was more concerned with whether that part of the book would be believeable at all. It turned out to be one of the highlights for me, and I was impressed with how well written it was!

 

The end of the book was equally good but in a different way. I agree with MD&G in that the way Clare never seems to question how Henry has controlled her since she was a child, but the bit that really got me was that after he died he told her he would see her again, leaving her just waiting. That seemed almost selfish on his part, like he was making sure that she would never be with another man, that she would always be waiting for him to come back. Mostly in books when someone dies (and presumably in "real life") they tell their partner to move on, and that they want them to be happy without them. Henry seemed to do the opposite, telling Clare to wait for him, because in 45 years they would meet again. Briefly.

 

That actually makes it sound like I didn't like the end (not what I was meaning to write at all!) but I did. The way Clare had (apparently) stayed loyal to Henry, just waiting all that time for him to come back one last time was incredibly romantic, and left me with a warm fuzzy feeling inside, despite the seemingly sad ending.

 

 

Having said all that I found this to be an amazingly written book, and whilst it left me wanting more, especially more on Alba, I really enjoyed it. I do wonder if the author can really follow up this book with something equally good though. Thats something I guess we just have to wait and see about though! :P

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      Flingo 10th June 2006 10:45 AM

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      megustaleer 16th June 2006 08:56 AM

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      Momo 16th June 2006 01:45 PM

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      belwebb 16th June 2006 05:28 PM
       
       
       
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      I was thinking the same thing, donnae. It's pretty obvious when you read it.



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