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29 May 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

**only very tiny spoilers**

This was a disappointment. I don't know why I was expecting something better, except that perhaps it was recommended or mentioned by several people.

I will concede that coming on after Mill on the Floss was always going to be a hard act to follow. And all it's flaws are highlighted acutely against that backdrop.

However, the flaws still exist.

It's actually a very interesting premise, the whole time travelling as a very ordinary person thing. It's a romance first and foremost. Instead of feuding relatives or social constraints, the challenge for this romance is the protagonist's inability to stay put in the present.

My two mains issues with the novel are firstly the writing style. Some people read for a good story. If that's you, you might really like this. It is a clever tale and it's well-constructed. As far as story, it's (mostly) a page-turner. But if like me you read for a story and for the writing itself, this isn't that novel.

It's bland. Often journalistic. Superficial. There is no beauty or witticism in it. The dialogue is unimaginative and often clich├ęd. Sometimes downright cheesy.

The second problem is the characterization. There is no depth. I wouldn't go so far to say that they are 2-dimensional, heck, I will go so far. When every voice runs into the next, and characters are defined by the simplest of traits, then yeah, shallow it is.

With these two very big problems, the romance left me feeling cold. There is plenty of lust, and subsequent sex, but little passion. Especially passion of feeling. I'm not convinced about their love, even with the poignant and satisfying (as far as the love story goes) ending. She seems to love him out of circumstance and time-travel steering, and he seems to love her for her beauty and as a tool to keep him connected to.... something. If you're a believer of Fate and that things are meant to be, you might like the author's take on the reason for this love affair, but it's unlikely you'll feel enamoured with Fate ever again!

The tiny romantic tangle provided obvious fodder, but it flagged and disintegrated before it was barely begun.
And you would think that his overall predicament would have created many more and much more complicated situations, but it doesn't untill the very end.

There are several themes weaved throughout the story, such as loss, humanness, parent and child relationships, but they just don't go far enough for me. Some of them come to dead ends. I think the only poignant theme, the successful one, was how tenuous is life. Even the main premise is left wanting. This is the author's topic of choice, she raises philosophical questions about time travel, and then leaves them hanging there. This would be fine if the other main theme, that of romantic love being an ideal, was dealt with in a much more convincing and thereby satisfying way.

For me, it's greatest success was making the concept of time-travel so believable, and putting it together so well that it doesn't become confusing.

With some heavy editing, I think this would make an interesting film. Somewhere on par with Vanilla Sky.

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