What do you do when you meet the love of your life when you are six years old and he is already 36? And what if he is really just eight years older than you are? For Claire Abshine, it just meant waiting for his visits throughout the years until they meet in real time.
What sounds more like the script for the fourth installment of Spielberg’s “Back To The Future” is actually the storyline of Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel. The Time Traveler’s Wife is the story of Chicago librarian Henry DeTamble who suffers froms CDP. The problem with Henry’s condition is that CDP (Chrono Displacement Order) causes him to be spontaneously displaced in time. Pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, he finds himself whisked away from the present to arrive sans clothing at another place and time. It is through these involuntary trips through time that he meets Claire, who is still in her younger years and falls in love with him.
Far from being a science fiction that explores the endless possibilities of the space-time continuum, this is a touching story about two people whose love spans across time. The author crafts an excellent story with this book. Even though Henry is travelling back and forth through time in almost every chapter, the plot continues to move forward through the skillful sequencing of events. Following a mostly straightforward chronology, their story starts from when Henry first visits Claire in her childhood. Because he is at an older age, he knows the dates that the earlier versions of himself would visit the older versions of Clare. However, as the years pass and the two finally meet, Claire is faced with a dilemma. The version of Henry she gets to meet is a man who is still much younger and hasn’t yet travelled back in time to know Claire.
The story is told in first person narration, both by Henry and Claire So we are allowed to see their lives from both their perspectives. Taking the complex issues of love, science and marriage the author weaves together a touching tale with amazing clarity.
Though the idea of time travel and its complications may not be a very new idea, the author provides a spark of freshness to a love story about two people whose passion spans a lifetime. To add to the building suspense, the author also puts in clever surprises with Henry’s time travels that either fills in lost knowledge about their pasts or provides a glimpse of what could occur in the future.
Revelations of the past, small glimpses of the future and the fear and pain which both Henry and Claire undergo are told in interesting bits and pieces; this one is a definite page turner. A tad lengthy for a light read (518 pages in all), this novel may leave some readers truly exhausted from all the time travel. The writing allows readers to feel emotionally bound to the characters, enabling us to suffer the pain and celebrate the joys of both Henry and Claire. Readers will find themselves fully immersed in the lives of the two protagonists and agree that this debut is a testament to Niffenegger’s literary skill.
This novel has been made into a Hollywood movie starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. The on screen adaptation has been directed by award winner Robert Schwentke.
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