The Time Traveler’s Wife

“It’s ironic, really. All my pleasures are homey ones: armchair splendor, the sedate excitements of domesticity. All I ask for are humble delights. A mystery novel in bed, the smell of Clare’s long red-gold hair damp from washing, a postcard from a friend on vacation, cream dispersing into coffee… These are the things that can pierce me with longing when I am displaced by Time’s whim.” (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger)

The Time Traveler’s Wife is everything the critics say it is – a beautiful, moving, literary love story – one that is very difficult to get out of your head, no matter how hard you try. But it is also an absurdly sad, harrowing and gruesome story about a degenerative sickness, which no one seems to mention. I simply bathed in the luxurious love tale in the beginning, but by the end I was almost affronted by the blatant tug of sympathetic emotions by the author. So I’ll say again what I feel that I always say about modern novels – that you should only read this one if your reading soul is built to withstand a veritable onslaught of emotions, otherwise you had probably better stick to pre-turn-of-the-century reading.

I can’t help but feel that I’m not really in sync with this whole modern notion that “moving” or “heart wrenching” equals “good”. Whenever I break my pattern and venture into the world of the modern novel (or even, recently, modern nonfiction) I feel that my heart is transformed into a puppet by these able puppeteers and that the more they batter and bruise it, the more they are applauded for their efforts. I have, somehow, never gotten used to the experience. I know of people who didn’t even put the book down after finishing before turning back to pg. 1, but I, instead, went straight to the children’s section under DA and found James and the Giant Peach. In the first few sentences James’s parents are killed off, in the next his only living relatives follow suit and he finds himself in the middle of the ocean with a group of bugs. In comparison with the Time Traveler’s Wife, all of Roald Dahl’s darkish humor and lively imagination seems like a coldly calculated play, but I can’t help but infinitely prefer that slight detachment to the awful intimacy of the former that requires any person, indiscriminately, to be simply consumed by their emotions.

Beverage: The compelling characters in this book are coffee-obsessed, and their continuous desire for it will make you want some too, so be prepared.

Reminds me of: The beginning, at least, reminds me of time traveling favorites like When You Reach Me or a version of A Wrinkle In Time from the perspective of the parents, the end, as I mentioned, goes off in another direction…

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2 thoughts on “The Time Traveler’s Wife

    • I am not saying that all sad endings are bad at all, there are some fantastic books with sad endings (i.e. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Once and Future King or Anna Karenina). But I am saying that an incredibly sad ending like this needs to be balanced with some modicum of hope, or a twinge of complexity. I just felt that the author played so heavily off of commonly shared human fears, such as fear of being left alone or losing limbs, that it didn’t allow room for subtler emotions or twists.

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