Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife

I bought this book for my mother-in-law when it first came out.  The premise really grabbed me and I thought she'd dig it.  When she finished I borrowed it and it's say on my shelf ever since.  The film came out, which I've seen (which I'll probably revisit this week), and of course having Rachel McAdams in it assures that I'll watch it at some point. 
For those who don't know the story, this is about a man who time travels without control of when or to where, and so this is a love story about he and his wife at different points in their lives.  Sometimes they are both in the present.  Sometimes she's 6 and he's 43.  Sometimes he's 28 and she's 20.  It's a very charming premise.
Now, first off, I did enjoy this for the most part - there is a lot to like beyond just the clever concept.  But since this is my own personal soap box, I think I'm allowed to gripe.  The book is an international best seller - me poking holes in it is not going to hurt it :)  So, with that said, SPOILERS AHEAD.

At 500+ pages this book is at least a hundred pages heavy.  I'm a big fan of keeping things tight and moving, but in novels you don't always get that.  There are numerous sequences wherein you wonder what the point of this is.  Why does it matter.  Early on in the book Henry mentions that there is a cage in the library where he works, and if he gets stuck in there he'll never get out.  And, of course, many years later he does get stuck in it.  But he gets out.  'Causing him to get stuck makes him have to out himself to his co-workers - but there's no consequence to it.  It doesn't make a lick of difference.  The book has a lot of stuff like this.
I think that this book would do well for the religious crowd who believes that your life is mapped out and that there is something else controlling it all.  I'm a big believer in freewill, and so there was a lot of frustrating stuff here.  Henry continues to insist, as he moves through time, that he can't change anything - everything has already happened.  If I'm to a tad cruel, a more ambitious writer would try and challenge both sides of that argument - but not this writer - she just plods along and everything you've been told will happen, happens.  It's like watching a ball slowly deflate.  Not very exciting.  The book starts off extremely well - the first half is great, and then it just starts a slow and steady decline, and I started to get more annoyed and frustrated by these characters, caring for them less and less.  There is a sequence in which Henry wakes up early to watch the Twin Towers on September 11th, because he wants to remember what the world was like before it changed.  I don't know about you, but reading that I just thought that Henry was a complete asshole.  He knows that thousands of people are about to die, and he's done nothing to try and prevent it - it's hard to come back from something like that.
So for me the book was interesting - I give it a soft recommend - the writing is good - but I just think that the story is a bit weak.


Jennifer Bragg said...

I really want to like this book...but I completely agree with you. The first half was really interesting, but it really spiraled downhill in the second half.

Jeremy said...

I had the exact same feeling. I kept wanting to like it more than I did - I think largely due to how much I liked the premise, but as it wore on I kept feeling like there were too many tangents, and that she merely wasn't pushing the material hard enough - or at least offering variations on the theme. The theme seemed to state harshly that there is no such thing as freewill, which is fine. But to never have Henry even TRY to change the future is just a bit lazy.